Armenia’s civil rights record isn’t exactly unblemished, but to thousands of Iranians eager to hear pop singers banned in Iran, the conservative South Caucasus country still ranks as a land of liberty.
Israeli singer Ishtar Alabina, sometimes described as “the Queen of the Middle East,” proved to be a mega-attraction in the line-up of privately sponsored concerts staged in Yerevan during Novruz, the 13-day Persian New Year celebration, which started on March 20. Joined by Armenian fans, thousands of Iranians at her March 30 concert waved the Iranian flag and sang along to the 42-year-old performer’s pulsing songs in Arabic, French and Hebrew.
“This was a huge surprise!” said 36-year-old Iranian engineer Fehdat Jafargholi, who traveled to Armenia from Tabriz with his wife and five-year-old daughter to celebrate Novruz. “Naturally, Alabina’s concerts cannot be held in Iran. Pop music performances are forbidden in our country, and this was a great gift to us for Novruz.”
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Gayane Abrahamyan is a reporter for ArmeniaNow.com in Yerevan. Gohar Abrahamyan contributed reporting to this story.