On Valentine’s Day, Iranian pop star Googoosh released a special video for her new song “Behesht”—translated as “Eden” or “Heaven”—which depicts the relationship of a fictional lesbian couple. Being such an influential figure and the first to speak out publicly in Iran in support of LGBT citizens, her video has sparked considerable outcry and backlash.
Watch it below.
The video begins with Googoosh performing to a crowd of couples before we see a girl through the eyes of her partner. The video then takes us through the various important moments in their lives from their engagement, to meeting the parents, to being physically accosted by a group of men on a subway. Throughout the video, the fact that the couple consists of two women is not revealed until the final minute of the song, when we return to Googoosh’s performance to couples. One of the couples in the room is the woman and her fiancée.
Khabar Online branded the video “obscene” for promoting “hideous acts,” and a number of news outlets have denounced the singer as “anti-Iranian.”
Iranian gay rights activists have praised her for her actions, with the Iranian Queer Organization saying, “While Googoosh is not queer herself, we have to applaud and appreciate what she has done for gay rights in Iran.”
They added, “Celebrities supporting the LGBT community can support dialogue and end discrimination in this country. We welcome and encourage other artists to do the same.”
Currently homosexuality is illegal under Iranian law, which can be punishable by lifetime imprisonment or even death. Gay men face stricter law enforcement than lesbians; a consensual homosexual act performed between two women of sound mind is punishable by fifty lashes, though the death penalty can also apply if a woman is convicted of the offense four times.
However, Googoosh, along with her video writer and director Navid Akhavan, are not deterred by the negative feedback received in Iran. Akhavan said, “We knew from the start that because of its topic the video is going to be very controversial among Iranians, that’s why we expected negative feedback.”
However, he added, “The reactions we have seen so far have been tremendous. The comments I have read online and the messages I have received from people within the Iranian LGBT community have brought tears to my eyes.”
The controversial video ends with the words “freedom to love for all.”