Iran's queen of pop, Googoosh, has released a video in support of the country's gay and lesbian community, the Guardian newspaper reports. The video makes her the first prominent Iranian to speak out against homophobia.
The video for her latest song Behesht (Heaven), released on her Facebook page on Valentine's Day, portrays a lesbian couple in a relationship banned both by society and by their families.
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"The end of this road is not clear, I know this, just like you do," sings Googoosh. "Don't tell me to stop loving, You can't do that and I can't either."
Navid Akhavan, who wrote and directed the video, said it had been viewed by thousands of Iranians online or via illegal satellite channels.
"The reactions we have seen so far have been tremendous," he said. "The comments I have read online and the messages I have received from people within the Iranian LGBT community have brought tears to my eyes."
But he added: "We knew from the start that because of its topic the video is going to be very controversial among Iranians, that's why we expected negative feedback too, but that hasn't bothered me, nor Googoosh."
A number of conservative websites in Iran denounced Googoosh over the video. Enghelab News said she was an anti-revolutionary who had sold herself to monarchists and Bahais. It said the video was produced to spread decadence in Iranian society. Another website, Khabar Online, labelled it an obscene video aimed at promoting hideous acts.
In the past couple of years Googoosh has been in the spotlight for her talent show Googoosh Academy, an X Factor-style show on Manoto1, a London-based channel run by Iranian exiles.
Unlike many other singers, Googoosh refused to leave Iran for exile after the 1979 Islamic revolution. She finally left in 2000 and sang for the first time after 21 years of silence.
Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in Iran face serious persecution both from the ruling system and broader society, especially by hardline conservatives. Some risk horrific punishments, including the death penalty and heavy jail sentences; others are bullied and forced into exile.