INTERVIEW | Zhinoo Dasti
Much like many of you (hopefully all of you), we have been taken aback by the extraordinary bravery of the women of Iran who have taken to the streets to protest and retaliate against a barbaric regime. The circumstances of this uprising stemmed from the tragic death of Mahsa Amini at the hands of Iranian police, is further fueled by the deaths of other protestors most recently Nika Shahkarami, and continues to be met with a brutal crackdown where even more people have lost their lives fighting for this cause.
Through the magic of the internet, we were able to track down a guitarist of an Iranian metal band called Unitique. She was willing to give us more information about what’s going on there and her personal take and view of the issues. To protect her identity we will not run any photos showing her face and will use the nickname “Zhinoo” to refer to her.
Thank you so much Zhinoo for taking the time to respond to these questions over a period of days while being surrounded by internet blockages, chaos, and destruction all around you.
More power to the women of Iran and anyone around the world supporting them.
Hi Zhinoo! There is a lot going on in Iran and hopefully, you can sense how much the world stands with you and the women of Iran. But before we dive into what’s happening in the country right now, can you give us some information about yourself, your band, and what you do in the band?
My name is Zhinoo. I’m Kurdish and live in Tehran. I’m a guitarist for a band called Unitique and I’m an architect.
How did you get into playing heavy music? What was the inspiration?
The tension in society, the pain, and suffering of the people of my country, which also caused tensions in my family…all of this led me down this direction.
And how did you find heavy music? And what were some of the first bands that got you interested?
Megadeath. When I was 17 years old, I had a guitar teacher and he introduced me to bands like As I Lay Dying, Tool, Dream Theater, Caliban, Crystal Lake, The Gazette. This kind of music made me feel like I could clear out my inner feelings and bring relief to my pain. I can definitely call this music a pain reliever.
What was your family’s reaction when you told them about this music and that you wanted to play the guitar?
For the first time, they wondered why this music is like this, but then they were satisfied and allowed me to work.
That’s amazing that your parents were open-minded! Was easy to find a guitar teacher? And for her to be female too!
Women are free to learn, but they are not allowed to perform shows without the presence of men.
That is insane. So there actually is a “morality police”? Have you had any personal experience with them?
Yes, when I was 14 years old, they arrested me for not wearing a hijab, but thank God I was not harmed.
At 14!?!?!? What did your parents say about it? Were they pissed at the authorities???
Yeah, I was 14. My mom told them how to behave with a 14-year-old child and they said that children should observe the hijab. Now I’m 24 years old.
They’re so fucking stupid. Were you scared after that experience? I can imagine it being so scarring to be arrested for a piece of clothing!
Once you started to play the guitar, how long did it take before you started playing in bands?
After 5 years of playing the guitar, I joined the band Unitique. I’ve been in the band for a year.
So your first band is Unitique?
And in this band how does it make you feel to have a full band of members there supporting you?
I have the best feeling being in this band and know that they all support me.
Prior to starting this band what was the most memorable show you watched live? Was it a band with any female members?
I’ve never seen a show before. Live metal is prohibited in Iran.
That’s crazy and so sad…so how does your band practice?
At home or in a studio
Wow…what is your goal with your band? Are you using the band as a way to express your feelings?
Our music addresses the unknowns, pain and suffering found all over the world.
Can you currently tell us how things are where you are?
As an Iranian woman and a musician, I am very heartbroken by these painful events, because here we do not have the right to anything, neither the right to cover, the right to sing, nor the right to play without the presence of men.
What is the feeling currently on the streets? Does it feel like the movement is picking up more power daily? Do you think this time, the authorities will finally listen?
Everyone, women, and men are being killed on the streets. Since no authority listens, every single day more and more people are joining the resistance.
In the beginning, the protests were about the law about hijabs, but do you think the goal of the protests has changed now? It seems it’s about overthrowing the authorities now.
The problems here are endless, forced hijab, expensive economy, bad state of universities, my heart is burning as an Iranian woman.
I feel for all of you…the videos we’ve seen are also intense. As a Muslim man myself I also have no interest in telling a woman what she can or cannot do. Can you tell everyone how and when this particular uprising began?
When Mahsa Amini came to Tehran for travel and she was killed at the hands of the police. Even though she was wearing a hijab they killed her. According to a statement by Mahsa’s father, it was said that when she was arrested on the street and taken to the police van she was beaten. I think she was mistreated at the police station and she has had severe blows to her head.
We want freedom of choice. The freedom to do what we want, play instruments and sing. We need the support of the people of the world.
Why would the police think they could get away with that? This is an issue with the culture of policing in Iran (and in many places) where the police know they won’t be held accountable.
Since the 1979 revolution, they’ve changed almost all laws in the field of law enforcement and judgment. And they’ve been measuring everything with so-called Islamic laws which is written nearly 1400 years ago.
For many idiots outside of Iran, they think that this protest is against Islam. How do you want to answer and explain this to them?
In Iran, people are not looking to change their religion, they are just looking for a normal life away from violence and darkness. We are looking for a regime change. We want peace between freedom and comfort.
I always find it strange that even in Islam Prophet Mohammad showed a lot of respect to women, but what’s going on in Iran and Afghanistan doesn’t reflect any of that respect that he showed. It’s about control in these countries. Your thoughts?
Yes, as you said yourself, Hazrat Muhammad said that women should be respected, and there is nothing to say about the compulsory hijab because respecting a woman’s beliefs and choices are respecting herself.
I see that you’ve already released a solo track (streaming below). What’s it about?
When I first started writing, I was inspired by the pain and suffering in the space. As a female artist, I wanted to make my words heard.
As we wrap up the interview now, is there anything you want to tell the world?
The only thing I can say is the existence of freedom and peace for the whole world, including in Iran. We all wish for a world full of peace and love