Mehdi Rajabian was sent to prison for making music – but he says that won’t stop him

Mehdi Rajabian could be arrested at any moment.

The 30-year-old has already been imprisoned twice for making music the Iranian authorities considered unacceptable.

The first time, he was kept in solitary confinement for three months – but the second saw him jailed for six years and forbidden from engaging in musical activities forever.

Currently on probation, he’s continued to make music in defiance of the regime’s ban. The result is an album, Middle Eastern, that was released by Sony Music last year.

Recorded in secrecy, it features contributions from almost 100 artists in 12 countries, including Syria, Yemen, Jordan, Lebanon and Iraq. Many of the musicians faced similar persecution to Rajabian. One of the songs was recorded during an air strike, another by a fleeing refugee in a boat.

Each track is accompanied by a painting from Kurdish artist Zehra Doğan, who was herself imprisoned for nearly three years for making art that offended the Turkish government.

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