Revolution Interview

Gissoo Shakeri: "The Bird of Freedom Captive in Your Breast Sings with My Voice"

Revolution #040, March 26, 2006, posted at

The Revolution Interview is a special feature to acquaint our readers with the views of significant figures in art, theater, music, literature, science, sports and politics. The views expressed by those we interview are, of course, their own, and they are not responsible for the views expressed elsewhere in Revolution and on our website.

From March 4 to March 8, I was part of a march in Europe against the repression of women in the Islamic Republic of Iran as well as imperialist aggression. (See “Report from European March Against Anti-Women Laws in Iran” in last week's Revolution, available online at Singer Gissoo Shakeri and poet Mina Assadi, both of whose works are banned in the Islamic Republic, participated in the entire march from its beginning in Frankfurt, Germany to its conclusion in The Hague, Netherlands. They have worked together for many years and created what became the signature song of the march. In each of the five cities we rallied and marched in, a skit was performed depicting the treatment of women in Afghanistan and Iran. A man dressed as a mullah leads a burka-clad woman in chains and then stones her. But suddenly, to a burst of music, a group of kneeling women rise up, throw off their burkas and chadors, capture the mullah and release the chained woman. Everyone joins in the chorus:

I asked myself what kind of life is this?
Enough waiting!
No! Now is the time to do battle!

Gissoo’s soaring voice was unforgettable--whether broadcast during the march from the sound truck, in performance in the evening, or leading us all (including the few non-Farsi speakers) in song during the bus rides between cities. Gissoo was born in 1953 and has lived in Sweden since 1988. I spoke with her over dinner in Dusseldorf about the march, her life and her art.

My translators and I have tried to be faithful to her words and meaning. If there are errors, I apologize in advance.



Revolution: Please tell me a little about your history and why you are on this march.

Gissoo Shakeri: This campaign against the anti-women laws of the Islamic Republic is about everything I believe and have struggled for and will continue struggling for. It is also very important that the campaign includes women from different political tendencies and opinions who are carrying out united action.

Before the Islamic revolution during the reign of the Shah, I could sing, but didn’t. I didn’t want to accept the male chauvinism and censorship of the Shah’s regime. After the Islamic revolution, I couldn’t sing; women’s singing was banned, women’s voices were not to be heard.

After the revolution I left the country and went into exile. For a while, I didn’t sing anything. When I started singing I chose subjects relating to the suffering of my people. My voice is the voice of the women who cannot sing, my words are their words. The bird of freedom captive in your breast sings with my voice.

I can be heard in Europe. In Iran, I am banned, except I can be heard clandestinely on the Internet. I have a website ( where people can download my songs for free. Many people contact me by email and tell me how happy they are that a woman artist has dedicated her life to this.

Art is a means through which--through the different forms of art--we can air the sufferings and problems of the people, and an artist’s work should be able to push things in the direction of a just and better society from a sick and suffering society. An artist is like a third eye, the eye of the conscience of society.

Revolution: Is there any message you would like to send to people reading this interview?

Gissoo Shakeri: My message to women is that women have a great power and they should not underestimate that. Every moment they should develop their abilities and unleash themselves. Without the power of women the world is not going to go in a good direction. I’m not talking about the power of Condoleezza Rice because that kind of power is anti-people power and we ourselves are struggling against that power.

The power of women should be used in service of the oppressed people and not putting down people and women.

To artists, I say that everything is political in this world--even one drop of water and all parts of life we pass through are political. So what we can produce must be in the service of equality and the emancipation of the people. This is the main art we must have, in whatever forms, filmmaking, music, poetry, drama.

Revolution: You wear very colorful clothing and jewelry. It seems to have many influences.

Gissoo Shakeri: I am also a clothes designer and design my own costumes. I am influenced by the folkloric clothing of the common people from Latin America, Spain, Iran, other places. I don’t feel I belong to a particular part of the world. I belong to all the world, and this is why I have a piece of cloth from every part of the world in my dress.


A video with the song quoted above can be seen at by clicking on “Kaarzar” under Flash Work. A translation of the song follows.

Through the cracks of closed doors
I watched a bird fly.
I lay in a house of despair.
I heard fortune walking out.
I was captive of the dark night.
I saw moons coming and going.
I asked myself, what kind of life is this?
Enough waiting.
No! Now is the time to do battle.
We saw a woman in love
Condemned to death and stoned.
We saw the laborer on the ground
And capital riding on his back.
We saw the hungry baby crying,
Sad and miserable.
We saw the sapling of dreams
Wilt yellow with no spring.
We asked ourselves, what kind of life is this?
Enough waiting.
No! Now is the time to do battle.
As long as we are chained
Capital, ignorance and religion will reign.
Did not that young sar-be-dar
Want only freedom?
We asked ourselves, what kind of life is this?
Enough waiting.
No! Now is the time to do battle.

Words: Mina Assadi

Music: Mohamad Shams

Singer: Gissoo Shakeri

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