Taylor Hanson, his kids and more for “Baraye – For Women Life Freedom”.JONATHAN WEINER/COURTESY FWLF
On Sept. 13, 2022, Amini was detained by morality police in Iran for not covering her hair as required by law. Three days later, she died in police custody.
Since then, women in Iran and around the world have been protesting in her name, demanding justice and rights despite facing arrest and death themselves. Because of their bravery now and in years prior,
TIME named the Women of Iran the 2022 Heroes of the Year.
Hanson tells PEOPLE he “really didn’t understand this issue” himself a year ago, and his involvement “started with hearing from a few people I trust who have a connection to this cause.”
“What struck me when I suddenly really got a picture of what’s going on in Iran is our whole generation has grown up really hearing [about] Iran and thinking of a government that we’re at odds with as a nation,” he continues. “And that has been true, because this government really has no respect for human rights and has a consistent history of
perpetuating violence against specifically women, but people within their country.”
“It struck me that the people of this country are actually the first who have been victims of the government running Iran,” Hanson says. “And suddenly something happened in me. I
saw myself as a dad, as a brother, and I thought to myself, ‘If [this happened to] my daughter or my wife or my sister’ — for that matter, my brothers, as women are not the only victims, but they’re certainly the extreme target of violence — I have to believe I would be in the streets protesting with them.”
Cover art for “Baraye — For Women Life Freedom”.JONATHAN WEINER/COURTESY FWLF
The original version of “Baraye” (which translates to “Because of” or “for”) nabbed Hajipour the first-ever
Grammy Award for best song for social change earlier this year.
And for its new iteration, Hanson tapped into the “iconic” Henson Recording Studios in Los Angeles, influenced partly due to the fact that it was where “We Are the World” was recorded in the 1980s (when it was previously known as A&M Recording Studios).
“We basically put out a call to action to many of the incredible leaders of Iranian and Persian background across L.A. especially, because there’s many people of that heritage in Los Angeles,” he says. “And we said, ‘Join us, bring your flags, bring your energy, and sing on this new project.’ “
To that end, Hanson helped recruit 16,000 people — including the aforementioned celebrity musicians, and even his three daughters Penelope, 18,
Wilhelmina, 10, and Maybellene, 2 — to sing in what he describes as “a marathon session” of about 250 people at a time in one studio, with “special guests” in a second.
“The Voices Project is really not simply about recording something and sharing a song,” says Hanson, who is a father of seven and also president of the Recording Academy’s
Texas Chapter. “It’s about reaching people with a simple message: You have a voice that can elevate the voices of those who have been silenced through what’s going on in [Iran].”
A protester with a drawing of Mahsa Amini in Toulouse, France, on Dec. 3, 2022.
ALAIN PITTON/NURPHOTO VIA GETTY
Asked about whether he is in contact with Hajipour, who is currently on house arrest in Iran, Hanson says that “there is communication” between Hajipour “and people throughout the movement.”
“What we’ve done has been completely led by folks around the world who are inspired by him, and we know he’s very directly aware of what we’re trying to do. And we’re really ultimately standing up for all the people in Iran, of course,” he adds. “So, through that, we’re standing up for Shervin and for others that have taken the ultimate risk.”
The new version of “Baraye” also includes a video accompaniment, which is similar to
Hajipour’s original video and “shows Shervin and myself, as well as the video of the many, many, many participants,” Hanson tells PEOPLE.
The format, he says, was inspired by a desire “to show that, once again, we’re all only capable of doing what each of us can do, and Shervin has been an inspiration by choosing to put himself in front of a message, in front of a cause, simply by posting a video.”
“And as simple as that sounds, it’s actually incredibly bold,” Hanson adds. “I would share with him that he’s been a huge inspiration and continues to be an inspiration to people who are hoping that one day they’ll have a chance at the basic freedoms that his song and the movement have articulated the desire for.”
“Baraye — For Women Life Freedom” is streaming now