Albany Times Union (Albany, NY)
April 23, 1995
Byline: RON KAMPEAS Associated Press
LONDON That this tiny, poised 70-year-old woman with the Chanel bag is the Iranian diva, no one disputes.
Add card-carrying terrorist to that resume, says the Iranian government.
Last year, Marzieh once known in Iran as “the Persian Edith Piaf”
joined the Mujahedeen Khalq, the best-known Iranian opposition group, regarded by Iran as terrorists and by the United States as “fundamentally undemocratic.”
Marzieh, whose powerful voice once defined Iran in popular music, fell silent 15 years ago, after the revolution that brought the clergy to power. Her original name is Ashraf os-Saadat Morteza’i. The late Ayatollah Khomeini banned women from singing in public, citing a reading of Islamic law that women’s voices could be seductive.
“The mullahs want to strangle me,” Marzieh explained in an interview. “If you stop a canary from singing, it dies from sorrow and anguish.”
The singer, who in headier days hobnobbed with the likes of Frank Sinatra, had one option: Perform for large, Iranian expatriate communities.
But she would not perform outside of her beloved Iran, and retired to a countryside property north of Tehran and sang for “the moving clouds, the birds and the waterfall.”
In March, she broke her silence at London’s Royal Albert Hall, singing songs wishing the mark of Cain on Iran’s rulers, whom she calls “snakes.”
The concert included classics like the heart-rending “What Should I Say?” reproaching a faithless lover. But there were songs of a more nationalist bent. One, urging that the “seal of eternal shame” be branded on the foreheads of the clergy, earned wild applause at the London concert.
“You can tell she’s been through a lot,” said Wajiha Kiani, 21. “It’s so operatic.”
What brought her out of retirement was a chat with Maryam Rajavi, the Paris-based, president-elect in exile of the National Council of Resistance, an opposition coalition led by the Mujahedeen.
“Mrs. Rajavi convinced me I have a mission to convey the cries of deprived Iranian women, their horrific living conditions,” Marzieh said, speaking through an interpreter. “Mrs. Rajavi is Iran’s future.”
She declared her decision to go into permanent exile last August. Her daughter promptly was arrested, but released following international pressure. Marzieh will not otherwise discuss her family, who include a husband, a son, and her daughter’s daughter.
The leftist Mujahedeen conducts raids on Iranian targets from Iraqi territory, enjoying the patronage of Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein. Their most spectacular attack was the 1981 Tehran parliament bombing that left 74 politicians and clerics dead.
Western governments tend to find the Mujahedeen unsavory.
Last year, the U.S. State Department said in a report: “Shunned by most Iranians and fundamentally undemocratic, the (Mujahedeen) are not a viable alternative to the current government of Iran.”
It also noted that the Mujahedeen assisted in the overthrow of the shah, and had killed at least six Americans in the 1970s. The report was questioned by many members of Congress, and the Mujahedeen issued a 400-page response in which it denied allegations of human rights abuse.
The French government banned Marzieh’s scheduled return to the stage in Paris in November, citing the group’s controversial nature.
Marzieh said the Mujahedeen’s tactics are the only way to remove the current Iranian regime.