Shab was just six years old when she started to question the Iranian regime. “I would come home from school, and I would take the hijab off and throw it across the room,” she remembers. “I would tell my mom, ‘Why mom? I’m a young girl! I don’t have boobs. I look like a boy. Who’s looking at me? Why don’t they let us be free? We’re just kids.’”
Two years later, Shab and her family managed to flee turmoil and persecution in post-revolutionary Iran. Now living in America, she’s a pop singer with hundreds of thousands of followers on Instagram and TikTok. Her latest single, Sexual, is a celebration of feminine desire and power.
In Iran, women are still struggling for freedom. The country has been gripped by civil unrest since the death of Mahsa Amini in September. The 22-year-old Iranian had been arrested by the ‘morality police’ and eyewitnesses described seeing the police beating her. She died three days later. Her crime? She was wearing an “improper” hijab.
As nationwide protests rip through her motherland, Shab is on a European stadium tour with Left Outside Alone singer Anastacia. Every night, before she goes on stage, she cries tears of gratitude. “I don’t know where I would be right now if my mom didn’t really push to get our passports and to get us out of the country,” says Shab. “My heart just aches and breaks for the people of Persia, Iran. I wish I could go back and help them. What I can just do right now is pray for them.”
Since her music career started to gain momentum, Shab has been mostly silent about what’s going on in her motherland, afraid that she would seem like she was “jumping on a bandwagon”. But a couple of weeks ago she decided it was important to break that silence and speak directly about her own experiences, and the fact that “women in Iran have second-class citizenship”. Taking to Instagram, she saluted the brave protestors and offered support.
Following that video, she agreed to open up to The Big Issue about her story and her hopes for the future of her motherland.