Musicians: Iran's national orchestra disbanded

Associated Press

TEHRAN, Iran (AP) — The Iranian national symphony orchestra has been disbanded for lack of funds, musicians said Monday, another sign of the effects of Western economic sanctions..

Orchestra members told the semiofficial ILNA news agency Monday that they have not rehearsed together and have not been paid for three months.

Arsalan Kamkar, a violinist in the orchestra, told The Associated Press Monday that "only seven or eight members of the orchestra have valid contracts. Unfortunately the rest have not had contracts over the past months, and it seems unlikely their contracts will be extended."

The orchestra was reactivated just last year, after a two-year break.

Another musician, Babak Riahipour, said the orchestra has been suffering from mismanagement, "Nobody cares about its destiny. There is no budget for replacing decades-old instruments. Nobody pays the players enough," he said.

The step is likely tied to heightening economic woes in Iran because of government mismanagement and Western sanctions over Iran's nuclear development program. Another key effect of the sanctions has been the collapse of the Iranian currency.

The West suspects that Iran may be heading toward production of nuclear weapons, imposing the sanctions to persuade Iran to drop its uranium enrichment project. Iran insists its program is for peaceful purposes.

Iran's orchestra is one of the oldest in the Middle East, founded in the 1930s. It has hosted performances by world famous musicians like Yehudi Menuhin and Isaac Stern in the past.

The orchestra has had eight different conductors since the 1979 revolution that brought Islamists to power in Iran.

Many hard-line Iranian clerics believe that Western music undermines Islamic values.

Kamkar said the shutdown shows that Iran's rulers are not favorable to the orchestra, because its budget is a "small portion of Iran's income from oil."

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