In Iran, thousands mourn pop singer Morteza Pashaei

Tehran hosts funeral of Morteza Pashaei, popular Iranian singer

Thousands of distraught music fans, many in tears, lined the streets of the Iranian capital on Sunday to mourn Morteza Pashaei, a beloved Iranian pop star who died of cancer.

Pashaei, a favorite of young Iranians and Persian speakers worldwide, was 30. He had been battling stomach cancer for months, but chemotherapy for the aggressive ailment failed and Pashaei died Friday, according to Iranian news reports.

His funeral took place Sunday at Tehran's Vahdat Hall, an elegant former opera house where many of the nation's most prominent musicians have performed. Photographs showed throngs of young fans reaching for his casket as it was carried through central Tehran.

The turnout was so large, reported Press TV, Iran's official English-language news service, "that his body could not be transferred to its resting place and the burial had to be postponed to a later time."

Pashaei was to be buried at Behesht Zahra cemetery in south Tehran.

On Sunday, admirers of the late singer were weeping openly in front of Vahdat Hall.

"He was very close to our hearts," said Mohsen, 25, who, like others interviewed, declined to give his full name for privacy reasons. "We enjoyed his lyrics about love stories. We do not care about politics."

Pashaei, who often appeared on Iranian television, specialized in ballads of the heart. Despite his illness, he continued to perform publicly, giving his last concert last month in Tehran, media reported. After losing his hair to radiation treatment, he began wearing a fedora and yellow sunglasses, noted the Tehran Times newspaper.

"Young people have their own idols," said another mourner, Halaleh, 29, who noted that the crowds honoring the late singer were much larger than those last month mourning the death of Ayatollah Mahdavi Kani, 83, a top cleric and powerful political figure.

Young devotees of Pashaei took to the streets to mourn the singer in other cities, including Mashhad, a religious center. Some sang songs and carried candles in his memory. Media in Mashhad reported some minor clashes between police and mourners.

Mostaghim is a special correspondent. Times staff writer Patrick J. McDonnell in Beirut contributed to this report.

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