Arts, Culture & Media

A beloved Iranian singer releases a music video in support of gay rights

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Googoosh's latest music video called "Behesht" (heaven) portrays a lesbian couple.

Credit:

Googoosh/YouTube

On Valentine's Day, the famous Iranian pop singer Googoosh released a music video that has stirred debate in the Iranian community, both inside and outside the country.

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This story is based on a radio interview. Listen to the full interview.

The video, called "Behesht," depicts a lesbian couple facing challenges from society and their families. It's the first time an Iranian with such stature has publicly supported gay rights.

To understand why there is so much debate around the video, you have to go back to pre-revolutionary Iran. In the late 1970s, when Americans were listening to Donna Summer, Googoosh was stealing hearts in Iran.

She was the icon. She had beauty and style, as well as an incredible voice. But Googoosh’s stardom was cut short by the Iranian Revolution in 1979.

Iran banned women from singing publicly. So her beloved voice was silenced.

Googoosh stayed in Iran, occasionally singing for small private groups, until she finally left in 2000 and performed a concert in Canada.

You could say that was the start of "part two" of her career. She's based in Los Angeles now, where she has been recording albums. She has also started a TV show similar to American Idol.

It's in that world that Googoosh released her latest video, "Behesht" or Heaven.

"The video is about a love story between a girl and her partner," says Navid Akhavan, who wrote and directed the video. “During the different situations of their life together we also see that their love is not welcomed by society or by their family. But then, at the very end, we find out that the partner is a woman, too."

So far, the video has been viewed thousands of times on YouTube. From the moment it was released, fans across the globe started to weigh in.

“We’ve got so many beautiful messages that it’s difficult to point out one, but I read a message from a girl in Iran who said that this was the best gift she could get and that finally she feels like she does not have to be ashamed of being gay,” says Akhavan.

Of course, not all the messages have been positive.

“I didn’t expect this from you, it’s a disgrace,” one person posted on Googoosh's Facebook page.

But Akhavan says he and Googoosh have no regrets.

“I think that it was time that a huge artist like Ms. Googoosh would break the silence and break the taboo and open a dialogue about this matter within the Iranian society. Not only inside, but also outside of Iran,” he says.

He says when someone like Googoosh talks about freedom of love for all, everyone will hear it. Whether they like it, or not.