The Iranian composer Mehdi Rajabian (1989-) and 12 musicians from neighboring countries have released an album entitled “Middle East.” The record is the result of a remarkable collaboration between musicians in the region.

None of the musicians ever met; they joined forces to send a unified message of peace. All the songs voice demands by the people of the Middle East for peace, tolerance and human rights.

Artists who took part in the project are from countries that have experienced war, armed conflicts, public unrest and political turmoil. The musicians from Yemen and Syria composed their pieces during the relentless air strikes on their countries. Some of the Yemeni musicians were injured and had to relocate to safer areas.

[aesop_image img=”خاورمیانه.jpg” panorama=”off” align=”center” lightbox=”on” captionposition=”left” revealfx=”off” overlay_revealfx=”off”]

In addition to Rajabian (Iran), the musicians performing on the album are: Al Fares (Yemen), Mahdi Mirkhalaf, Majed Jaredeh and Kamal Skaiker (Syria and Lebanon), Basem Hawwar, Wasim Qassis (Iraq and Palestine), Same Murat Sungu (Turkey), Yousuf Alluwaihi, Tahira Jamal Albalushi (Oman), Yarub Smarait (Jordan), Mohamed Saed (Egypt), Hussain Alhaddad and Ali Alolaiwi (Bahrain).

The renowned 70-year old Tajik musician, Omar Teymoorov, performs a song on the record as an honorary guest.

It took more than a year for Rajabian to organize the project and produce the record. The album also draws attention to the plight of refugees. An asylum seeker fleeing his war-torn country has written the melody for one of the songs while traveling on a refugee boat.

There are plans to produce the album in Central Asia. Rajabian conceived the idea for an international collaborative music project while in prison.

The authorities arrested Mr. Rajabian in 2013 for “illegally publishing music, offending religious sanctity and inciting opposition to the Islamic Republic.” A revolutionary court found Rajabian guilty and sentenced him to six years in jail. On appeal, the judge reduced his jail time to three years but gave him another three-year suspended sentence.

[aesop_image img=”مهدی-رجبیان.jpg” panorama=”off” align=”center” lightbox=”on” caption=”Mehdi Rajabian ” captionposition=”left” revealfx=”off” overlay_revealfx=”off”]

The ruling also banned Rajabian from ever recording his music or performing in public. At the time of his arrest, Rajabian was in the process of producing an album entitled “History of Iran Narrated by Setar.”

There has been worldwide condemnation of Rajabian’s imprisonment. In the United Nations’s annual report on human rights, former Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon (2007-16) highlighted Rajabian’s health conditions in prison and called for his immediate and unconditional release.

Rajabian received the Global Investigative Journalism Network’s (GIJN) Choice Artist Award in 2017. The (GIJN) is an international association of nonprofit organizations that support, promote and produce investigative journalism.

[Translated from Persian by Fardine Hamidi]