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Exiled Iranian pop star Ebi in presidential warning

By Nigel Wrench
Reporter, Radio 4 PM

Iranian popstar Ebi
Ebi performing at the BBC Persian session recording

One of Iran's biggest pop stars has used a rare visit to London in time for Persian New Year to give President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad a blunt message.

"Shame on you," says Ebrahim Hamedi - known to his millions of fans simply as Ebi.

"Get the hell out of Iran and find [another] place, because sooner or later they are going to kick you out of the country."

Protest songs

Ebi has not been home since before the Islamic revolution in 1979.

He now divides his time between Marbella in Spain and Los Angeles in the US - as well as performing in concert halls around the world.

If you haven't heard of him, it may be because he sings only in his home language, Farsi.

Imagine, though, an Iranian version of the British singer Tom Jones - Ebi is now 60 - but with added politics.

In London, Ebi recorded an acoustic session for the BBC's Persian television service, including one of his most famous protest songs.

Called Gole Sorkh, it translates as "red rose", and was written in the early 1980s.

He says: "During the revolution they killed lots of people, especially young people, and now they are starting to do it again.

"When they shoot you in the heart, the blood looks like a red rose."

Ebi says his music is officially banned in Iran.

"My music is underground music. People walking in the street say (and here his voice drops to a whisper) 'Ebi has a new tape out.'

"As an Iranian, I have to send my message to my country, to my people. I'm just trying to wake them up a little bit."

Worms and cockroaches

But he supports none of the opposition leaders, such as Mir-Hossein Moussavi, whose green-clad supporters flooded the streets of Tehran during the elections of 2009.

Indeed Ebi's pre-election song, Tasmim ("decision"), suggested the choice offered was in fact no choice at all.

The video for it, available on YouTube, has a not-so-subtle visual metaphor.

Ebi and guitarist
Ebi uses his music to send a message to his fellow Iranians

It ends on an image of two glass bowls.

One has live worms in it, the other live cockroaches.

"I support the green movement, but there are no leaders," he says, before, characteristically adding another metaphor. "They all come from the same river, the same sea."

Ebi's next dates are in Frankfurt, Kuala Lumpur - and then in Iraqi Kurdistan, the nearest he has been to Iran in decades.

"I would love to go to Iran, it's my country.

"If I go there, I'm sure they will not let me go out. I don't know the rest of it, but probably they will put me in jail.

"But this [to go to Iran] is one of my wishes. And some day God will give me that."

Ebi's performance was broadcast on the BBC's Persian television service on Saturday 20 March



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