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In late August, the orchestra may have played its last piece _ the Iranian national anthem _ at the opening of the Nonaligned Movement summit, which Iranian officials billed as a world gathering to challenge the economic pressures of the West over Tehran’s nuclear program.

Orchestra members told the semiofficial ILNA news agency Monday that they have not rehearsed together or been paid for three months. An experienced musician may receive just 6 million rials, or less than $200 a month at the current exchange rates _ below an average taxi driver’s pay _ and must supplement income through other performances or professions.

“Many (Iranian) artists are working as taxi drivers, office secretaries and accountants” rather than focusing on their profession, singer Fazel Jamshidi was quoted by the semiofficial Mehr news agency.

Arsalan Kamkar, a violinist in the orchestra, told The Associated Press on Monday that “only seven or eight members of the orchestra have valid contracts. Unfortunately, the rest have not had contracts over the past months, and it seems unlikely their contracts will be extended.”

Kamkar said the shutdown highlights the dislike for Western-oriented culture by Iran’s rulers, who are also sitting on one of the world’s prized collections of European and American modern art.

In August, the Museum of Contemporary Art displayed about 100 works purchased by the late shah and his family _ including pieces by Andy Warhol, David Hockney and Jasper Johns. But most of the collection _ works by Picasso, Jackson Pollock, Francis Bacon and many others _ remains in vaults and basement storage.


Karimi reported from Tehran, Iran.