- The Washington Times - Monday, December 19, 2005

TEHRAN — Hard-line President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has banned all Western music from Iran’s state radio and TV stations — an eerie reminder of the 1979 Islamic Revolution, after which popular music was outlawed as “un-Islamic” under Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini.

Today, though, the sounds of hip-hop can be heard blaring from car radios in Tehran’s streets, and Eric Clapton’s “Rush” and the Eagles’ “Hotel California” regularly accompany Iranian broadcasts.

No more. The official Persian daily reported yesterday that Mr. Ahmadinejad, as head of the Supreme Cultural Revolutionary Council, ordered the enactment of an October ruling by the council to ban all Western music, including classical music, on state broadcast outlets.

“Blocking indecent and Western music from the Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting is required,” according to a statement on the council’s official Web site.

Iranian guitarist Babak Riahipour called the decision “terrible” and said it “shows a lack of knowledge and experience.”

Music was outlawed by Ayatollah Khomeini soon after the 1979 revolution. Many musicians went abroad; some built an Iranian music industry in Los Angeles.

But as revolutionary fervor started to fade, some light classical music was allowed on Iranian radio and television, and public concerts made a slight comeback in the late 1980s.

In the 1990s, particularly during the presidency of reformist Mohammed Khatami starting in 1997, authorities began relaxing restrictions further.

These days, Western music, films and clothing are widely available in Iran. Bootleg videos and DVDs of films banned by the state can be found easily on the black market.

Mr. Ahmadinejad’s order means that the state broadcasting authority must execute the decree and prepare a report on its implementation within six months, according to the official daily.

Earlier this month, Ali Rahbari, conductor of Tehran’s symphony orchestra, resigned and left Iran to protest the treatment of the music industry in the country.

Before leaving, he played Beethoven’s “Ninth Symphony” to packed theater houses in Tehran over several nights last month — its first performance in the capital since the revolution. That angered many conservatives and prompted newspaper columns accusing Mr. Rahbari of promoting Western values.

The ban applies to state-run radio and TV. But Iranians with satellite dishes can get broadcasts originating outside the country.

Mr. Ahmadinejad won office in June on a platform of reverting to hard-line principles, after the eight years of reformist-led rule under Mr. Khatami.

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