Lifestyle & Belief

Watch Iran's gutsy queen of pop take on homophobia in her latest music video


Iranian pop diva Faegheh Atashin, known as Googoosh, performs in California, Aug. 19, 2000. Googoosh was on her first tour since Iran banned female performers in 1979.


Lucy Nicholson

Glittery and graceful, the Iranian pop sensation Googoosh has taken yet another bold stand.

This one was on Valentine's Day. She posted a video for her new song "Behesht" (Heaven) to her Facebook page that promotes love for all people — even gay people.

Wait. Iran has gay people? Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, then-president, told us confidently otherwise in 2007 while speaking at New York's Columbia University.

No, but it's true. Iran has gay people, and they face serious persecution, ranging from bullying to the death penalty. So, Googoosh's video is big.

And Iranians are listening. Navid Akhavan, who wrote and directed the video, told the Guardian that the video has been viewed by thousands of Iranians online or via illegal satellite channels.

Most of the Facebook comments on the video are overwhelmingly positive. People can't believe their childhood hero has taken a stand for who they are. Many extol her bravery.

But as you might imagine, praise for the video does not include all facets of society.

"Enghelab News said Googoosh was an anti-revolutionary who had sold herself to monarchists and Bahais, " according to the Guardian. Khabar Online labeled it an obscene video aimed at promoting hideous acts.

Akhavan said he and Googoosh, whose full name is Faegheh Atashin, were prepared for that kind of thing. They knew what they were getting into, he told the Guardian.

"We knew from the start that because of its topic the video is going to be very controversial among Iranians," he said.

Taking a stand isn't a new role for Googoosh. She endeared herself to many Iranians after the 1979 revolution by remaining in the country instead of living in exile like many performers and artists.

She wasn't able to sing due to the ban on female singers, but young Iranians could get her tapes and videos on the black market and her following grew. 

In 2000, as a sign of the cultural liberalization of the time, Googoosh was allowed to leave Iran to tour in Canada. That restarted her career in music.

So adored by old and young alike, Googoosh occupies a unique space in Iranian society. Here's to hoping it's a space positioned well enough to make a dent in gay rights.