Khaled Desouki—AFP/Getty Images

Nobody makes a masterpiece knowing they’re making one. In late September, Shervin Hajipour sat down at his piano in his apartment in Iran. Protests had raged across the country for more than a week after the death of Mahsa Amini, arrested for how she wore her headscarf. But people were angry about so much more. On Sept. 28, Shervin posted a song that, miraculously, managed to say what.

Shervin wrote “Baraye” (“Because of”) with the words of fellow Iranians, who had gone online to list the ways their lives had become intolerable. The posts appear on the screen as he sings. In “Woman, life, freedom!” the uprising had already found a slogan. Now it had an anthem.

Shervin was arrested within 48 hours and held for several days. In February, “Baraye” was awarded the first Grammy for Best Song for Social Change. But the ultimate validation is on the streets of our country every day and every evening, as his aching melody rises from open car windows. He became the voice of Iran.

Satrapi is an artist and Oscar-nominated filmmaker

More Must-Reads from TIME

Contact us at

Olena Zelenska
Lionel Messi
Aubrey Plaza
Michael B. Jordan
Colleen Hoover
5 stories