Iranian Rapper Toomaj Salehi Sentenced to Death Over Music Criticizing Government

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Iranian rapper Toomaj Salehi has been sentenced to death by an Iranian revolutionary court over songs that criticized the Iranian government, according to his lawyer and state media.

“An order for the execution of Toomaj Salehi has been issued,” Salehi’s lawyer Amir Raesian tweeted Wednesday.

Salehi, 33, has been arrested multiple times by Iranian forces for criticizing the regime’s corruption and suppression of protests sparked by the death of Jina “Mahsa” Amini. The 22-year-old Iranian Kurdish woman died while in the custody of morality police for allegedly wearing a loose headscarf.

The Recording Academy released a statement Friday evening condemning Salehi’s sentencing: “The Recording Academy is deeply troubled by the recent news regarding Toomaj Salehi. No artist anywhere should have to fear for their life or livelihood when expressing themselves through their art. Music is a powerful force for good in the world and is needed today more than ever. We stand with music creators around the globe who use their gifts to shed light on the human condition and will continue to work tirelessly to protect artistic freedom.”

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Meek Mill is among artists who have also criticized Salehi’s arrest and sentencing, writing on X/Twitter, “Got sentenced to death over a song free that man wtf” on Thursday, followed by “Free toomaj!”

“We strongly condemn Toomaj Salehi’s death sentence and the five-year sentence for Kurdish-Iranian rapper Saman Yasin. We call for their immediate release,” the United States’ Office of the Special Envoy for Iran wrote on Thursday. “These are the latest examples of the regime’s brutal abuse of its own citizens, disregard for human rights, and fear of the democratic change the Iranian people seek.”

Salehi was initially sentenced to six years in prison for his participation in protests over the death of Amini, but was released after Iran’s Supreme Court ruled that it had identified flaws in the original sentence. The rapper was rearrested in November for revealing in a video that he was tortured and placed in solitary confinement for 252 days following his arrest in October 2022, according to a statement published by the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR).

Nazanin Boniadi, Arian Moayed and Maz Jobrani are among Iranian actors who have been calling for Salehi’s release since last year.

“Toomaj has been arrested for the peaceful exercise of his human rights including the right to freedom of expression,” Boniadi shared in a video for Amnesty International last year regarding Salehi’s arrest.

“Toomaj’s only crime was to express his support and express his artistic voice. As a comedian, I cannot imagine a world in which artists are imprisoned for expressing their voice,” Jobrani adds in the video.

This post was originally published on Variety

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