Marjan Vahdat sings in Farsi at a women’s life music tribute in Knuth Hall on International Women’s day in San Francisco CA., on March 8, 2023. (Chris Myers/ Golden Gate Xpress) (Chris Myers)
Marjan Vahdat sings in Farsi at a women’s life music tribute in Knuth Hall on International Women’s day in San Francisco CA., on March 8, 2023. (Chris Myers/ Golden Gate Xpress)

Chris Myers

“Women – Life – Freedom!” music and poetry tribute honors Iranian women’s revolution

Hafez Modirzadeh hosted the event alongside a number of students, teachers and alumni.

March 9, 2023

Graduate student Parya Aami has been living in the United States for two and a half years now. Originally from Iran, they remember feeling stifled by the lack of women’s rights in the country.

“I didn’t have a place in a lot of things as a woman,” Aami said. “As soon as I left the house, I had to pretend to be somebody else because there was [such] little tolerance for the artist in me or the feminine aspects of my identity.”

To honor the women’s revolution in Iran, Knuth Hall held a musical tribute and spoken word event on Wednesday afternoon.“Women – Life – Freedom!” is part of a month-long series that pays homage to the people of Iran and their struggle for freedom against the oppressive policies in the country. Specifically, women, girls and students who’ve been risking their lives to call for an end to oppressive policies in the Islamic Republic of Iran. 

The event was hosted by Hafez Modirzadeh, a professor of creative and world music.

“There’s a very powerful spiritual nature to music,” said Modirzadeh. “We know this, and it moves us to do sociopolitical things. It branches out into all these other avenues.”

Award-winning Iranian singer Marjan Vahdat, who also taught classical Persian singing, kicked off the event with a song originating from Iran’s Lorestan Province. 

“As an artist, I had to struggle with the concept of where home is for a long time,” she said before her performance. “I found my true home in the heart of my voice. My voice is my country, I carry it with myself everywhere. On the stage, I feel the ultimate freedom.” 

Professor Tonya Foster, who met Vahdat through a mutual friend, performed alongside her. She read the English translation of a poem while Vahdat sang in Farsi. The second part of the performance included different students, teachers and alumni reading spoken words. 

Having grown up in a city, Aami said they were privileged, yet still experienced the dangers and fears that come with being a woman in Iran.  

“I feel like my teenage years, when I was supposed to be discovering who I am and how I function in society, were spent struggling to cope with hijab and everything that comes with not being a full person,” Aami said.

Aami said that they witnessed plenty of violence where they lived, especially against women. Despite this, they still have hope for the future of the women’s revolution in Iran. 

“There’s this sentence from the Iranian community that says ‘freedom is a daily practice,’” they said. “Freedom isn’t always a given, you need to always be fighting for it.”

SF State will continue to honor the movement throughout the week. On Thursday, there was a musical performance from the Electric Oud Quarter, and on Friday, Farhad Bahrami will present a lecture on creative Persian music. For more information, visit here.

Editor’s note: The pseudonym Parya Aami was used to protect the source’s identity.

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Photo of Michelle Ruano Arreola
Michelle Ruano Arreola, Staff Reporter
Michelle Ruano (she/her) is a reporter for Golden Gate Xpress. Though she is from Hayward, CA, she currently resides in San Francisco. She is a journalism major focusing on online print and a minor in Special Education. She has previously interned for YR Media in Oakland, CA. Outside school, she loves playing video games with her friends and attending live music shows.
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Chris Myers, Staff Photographer
Chris Myers (he/him) is a photographer for Golden Gate Xpress. He is a photojournalism major with a minor in buisness administration. Currently based out of San Francisco and his current hobbies consists of snowboarding, golf and softball. He is really appreciative of the hundreds of inches of snow that the Sierra Nevada has recieved this Winter.

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