Iran bans female cellist from Xmas concert

Iran bans female cellist from Xmas concert


norman lebrecht

December 27, 2016

The authorities stepped in to stop the Iranian-Armenian cellist Melanie Awanessian from playing in a Tehran Christmas concert, despite previously granting her all necessary ermits.

The concert, starring the Iranian pop singer Benjamin, was to have taken place in Tehran’s Milad Tower.

‘We just wanted to give pleasure to our Christian fellow-citizens,’ said Benjamin’s spokesman.


  • debussyste says:

    I wonder why a so proudly muslim country like Iran organises a Christmas concert ?

    • Max Grimm says:

      Norman’s “summary” leaves much to be desired and his headline is incorrect.
      ‘Iran’ neither organised a Christmas concert, nor did ‘it’ ban the female cellist.

      The Iranian pop singer Benjamin and his band (in which the cellist plays) had organised a Christmas concert, “particularly to do something nice for [their] Christian fellow citizens”. Although all necessary permits from respective government departments had been granted, it appears that one single cleric* banned the female cellist from preforming at the concert, to the disappointment of the audience, the band manager and the singer Benjamin who said “We received permission from all relevant authorities but then one single guy comes along and ruins everything”.

      *according to the article Iranian clerics have the authority to override previous goverment approval and ban concerts.

    • George Porter says:

      According to Wikipedia: there are around 250,000 to 370,000 Christians in Iran.
      Christianity, Judaism, Zoroastrianism, and the Sunni branch of Islam are officially recognized by the government, and have reserved seats in the Iranian Parliament.[123] But the Bahá’í Faith, which is said to be the largest non-Muslim religious minority in Iran,[312] is not officially recognized, and has been persecuted during its existence in Iran since the 19th century.
      This article describes the situation of Christians – Christian converts are targeted.

  • Judy says:

    She got to keep her head connected to her neck, that’s Iran’s Christmas gift.

  • nvdl Linden, Neil van der says:

    Iran has a palpable Christian community, many of Armenian denominations, some of Syrian-Orthodox, and some Protestants, Anglicans or Presbyterians. Downtown Teheran has several churches. Like it has synagogues. The non-Muslim communities have permission to drink alcohol. Of course all Iranians I know would prefer to decide for themselves to drink or not to drink, regardless of religious background. In private many decide for themselves.
    Downtown Teheran also has kosher restaurants for instance.
    The fate of the Bahai remains dismal, of course.
    Yet the general message is that it is better to do some homework before spawning strong opinions.
    It is a pity I can’t include pictures. Otherwise I would have included some pictures of churches and of Christmas decorations in the streets.
    Meanwhile about cellists: I have seen many female solo-cellists performing in recent years in chamber concertos. Some Iranian, some foreign. This incident seems rather like some exception to the rule.

    • Jean says:

      I agree. And weddings are held in the Armenian churches in Tehran – Muslims that are invited at the weddings are also attending these church ceremonies without any conflict.

      • Jean says:

        (Or at least still in 2009 when I was there)

        • Neil van der Linden says:

          And still. Or going to the synagogue. Or a kosher restaurant.
          Muslims are not allowed into the Armenian club, where alcohol is being served. But there are solutions for that. Not that this is my idea is personal freedom.
          But people who start to write here about women cellists having heads getting chopped off are a bit stupid and are irresponsible world citizens by their ignorance. Or is it malevolence?
          And meanwhile, just some simple logic, why would she be invited and why would shelve accepted the invitation if the rule is that her head would be chopped off?
          And for anybody’s interest, against an official rule there have been performances of Ganni Schicchi, My Fair Lady, Hänsel und Gretel and the Sound of Music with, of course, female soloists. The trick was to have other singers hum along with the solo parts a bit during the premiere. After that not anymore. The hardline press had criticised the Minister of Culture (officially ‘of Culture and Islamic Guidance’) and recently he was replaced, but the latter was mostly cosmetic.
          No this is not my idea of how it should be but it is different from what most people think, and want to think, apparently.

  • Nadia Macri says:

    Muslim Iranians go visit next door Armenia as often as they can to be able to drink as they want without supervision from imams. people always find a way to circumvent the stringent rules imposed by imams! it leads to hypocrisy and broken rules> Muslim rules are for show only, none of them like or enjoy them, other then fanatics, maybe!

  • Robert Holmén says:

    Imam-y problems.

  • Arman says:

    Melanie’s case in very different. She is a graduate of Yerevan State Conservatory in cello performance but during the past few years she was basically active as a pop singer in Christian community (she left the Tehran Symphony after a year of collaboration). Recently she has released several music videos in Iran (they have used several actresses not herself) and given several interview about her career as an active singer which according to Islamic regime is not acceptable. According to regulations they can ban her from any public non stage except Christian community clubs & …

    • Neil van der Linden says:

      Interesting. But while the Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance has even staged operas and musicals (see one of my posts before) the main issues now, as Max Grimm wrote in the first comment, seems that one cleric objected, so that is not the regime as such, as usually the Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance even seems to support stretching the boundaries.