With all the talk about “disruption” floating around start-up culture right now, you’d think something revolutionary was going on. Dig a little deeper and the calibre of things being disrupted tend to be along the lines of the taxi industry, finding parking spaces, beard growing competitions, etc. The stakes couldn’t really be lower.
Now consider a nation of 73 million people, 60% of whose population is under 30, almost all of whom aren’t particularly enthusiastic about living under the yoke of a handful of aged, fundamentalist theocrats who exert absolute control over dress code, public behaviour, political life and fun. Sounds like a high-stakes situation fairly crying out to be disrupted. Such is life in Iran.
Instaradio, a Toronto start-up that provides a platform for its users to broadcast audio, has been adopted as a platform for an exiled Iranian rapper called Najafi, who has been documenting his life as a refugee and critiquing the Iranian power structure from Germany, where he has been living since 2004.
Meanwhile, the Instaradio platform has seen 30% week-over-week growth in the past month, with a 500% jump in Farsi language users.
Instaradio users who follow Najafi can receive a push notification telling them that a new broadcast is available, effectively allowing content creators like Najafi to use the platform as a public address system.
“We believe that audio broadcasting plays a crucial role in social activism and acts as another tool of self-expression,” says Instaradio CEO Kevin Kliman. “People naturally communicate best through story, and we’re committed to providing our users with a microphone to the world.”
A recent Najafi song called “Imam Naghi”, which imagines a dialogue between the rapper and the Tenth Imam and satirizes the current-day state of Iran’s cultural and political life, caught the attention of the religious authorities to the extent that a fatwah, or death sentence, was passed in Najafi’s absence on a charge of blasphemy.
“My lyrics call on the imam to return to life and end Iran’s apocalyptic conditions,” Najafi told Der Spiegel. “The lyrics are provocative, but there is no verse, not a single word that insults the religion. I tell him he should not hesitate to do away with the many misfeatures in the country: with oppression and sexual violence, with the trend of cosmetic surgery, and with imported cheap goods from China that are flooding the Iranian market.”
The fatwah against Najafi follows the recent case of a bunch of young people in Tehran who thought it might be harmless fun to upload a video of themselves dancing to the song “Happy” by Pharrell Williams. The video’s participants were arrested and then humiliated on state television, where they “confessed” to being “tricked” into participating in the video.