Imagine a world where you can be arrested for playing music with lyrics that displease your government. Well, in places like Iran, this is a reality that the heavy metal band Arsames is all too familiar with. The members have been sentenced to 15 years in prison for playing music the government considers ‘satanic’.
Photo Credit: Metal Injection
The band members were arrested earlier this month. The official document of arrest reads, "The band Arsames was arrested and charged with 15 years in jail for being in satanic metal band and being against the Islamic government."
The band first formed in 2002. Since then, they have managed to fall under the radar, playing music that the government would consider subversive, at festivals all over the region, in countries like Turkey, Dubai and Armenia. However, their growing popularity has brought them bad luck.
Currently, they are out on bail, out of prison and waiting for their trial to begin. They are trying to stay low profile and keep out of trouble. While they are not doing any crowd-funding to help support their legal fees, you can help them out by buying their music on their Bandcamp page.
Arsames are not the only Iranian heavy metal band to be persecuted for their lyrical content. They follow in the footsteps of the band Confess.
The members of this Iranian duo were arrested in November of 2015 by the Army of the Guardians of the Islamic Republic. They were charged with blasphemy, advertising against the system, running an illegal underground band, recording and promoting music considered to be Satanic, writing anti-religious lyrics and granting interviews to forbidden foreign radio stations.
As a result, member Nikan Khosravi was sentenced to 12 ½ years in prison and 74 lashings (yes, that’s right lashings) while the other half of the duo, Arash Ilkhani was sentenced to two years. Fortunately, both musicians were able to make a bail of $30,000 USD and fled Iran to get asylum in Norway.
"After releasing new song and breaking my silence in Turkey in 2018, different organizations who support artists who are in danger stepped up. After a few months, I got invited to come and live in Norway as a political refugee with artistic scholarship,” Nikan explains.
"After Arash went to appeals court and saw that they are really are going to follow this up since they had changed our confessions from interrogations to something that they wanted, and imitating my signature to confirm them, he asked for my help. So I start to talk with the Norwegian government and some organizations and since he wasn't banned from traveling outside of the country and had his passport he went to Turkey and after a few weeks they helped him too."
It is fortunate that Confess were able to get asylum in Norway. Let’s hope that Arsames has a similar fate, or better yet, that they don’t end up in prison at all.