British singer Joss Stone says she has been deported from Iran because authorities believed she was attempting to play an unsanctioned concert in the country, which prohibits female musicians performing in public.
“We got detained and then we got deported,” the 32-year-old said in an Instagram video on Wednesday, while dressed in a white headscarf. She says she was on a “blacklist” and that the authorities “don’t believe we wouldn’t be playing a public show” on what would have been the final leg of her world tour.
“After long discussions with the most friendly, charming and welcoming immigration people, the decision was made to detain us for the night and to deport us in the morning,” Stone said. “Of course I was gutted. So close yet so far.”
In the video, the singer said she was aware that there couldn’t be a public concert because of her gender and that she wasn’t trying to “change the politics of the countries I visit or put other people in danger.”
In a statement to TheWrap, Stone said that the immigration officials treated her with “the utmost class and compassion” and were apologetic even as they escorted her to her plane. “We were the ones that should have been apologising for not having our correct paper work,” the singer wrote. “The ball was dropped on this one and it wasn’t them.”
“I have to say I never imagined that being deported in Iran would be such a delightful human experience,” she added. This is a situation that could have been so so very different. It solidifies my belief further. People are good.”
Iran’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs did not return TheWrap’s request for comment.
Stone’s Total World Tour started in Morocco in March 2014 and included Kazakhstan, Mongolia, Belize and Jordan. The purpose of the tour to “bring loveliness in a form of music to every country on our planet,” according to the artist’s website. Aside from performing, Stone’s tour also included charity work in Lebanon, Syria and Mauritius, where she supported Mo’zar Atelier Musique, a group that helps children access music lessons.
The singer was barred from playing in Iran despite the regime’s stance on music being performed in the country has loosened slightly in recent years, as detailed in the New York Times. All forms of music were banned immediately after the regime took control in 1979, but in the late ’90s some restrictions were lifted under reformist president Mohammad Khatami, who allowed western classical music to be taught at Tehran University and permitted concerts where women could sing in front of other women.
Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad banned western music from state radio and TV stations in 2005 in order to block “indecent and western music from the Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting.” Women singing by themselves continues to be a taboo in Iran, with some exceptions being permitted for opera.