World’s bravest rapper, Toomaj Salehi, sentenced to death in Iran for supporting women’s rights

By Fatou Ferraro Mboup

Published Apr 25, 2024 at 12:56 PM

Reading time: 2 minutes

In a recent development, reported by the newspaper Shargh on Wednesday 24 April 2024, a well-known Iranian hip-hop artist, Toomaj Salehi, has been sentenced to death by an Iranian court for participating in nationwide protests in 2022, sparked by the death of Mahsa Amini by the morality police. Salehi, known for composing rap songs addressing Iran’s societal issues and sharing related content online, has earned recognition from Western media over the past two years as one of the world’s most courageous rappers.

Salehi first gained global attention when he vocally showed his support for the protests that swept through Iran in 2022, triggered by the death of a 22-year-old Kurdish-Iranian woman, who was arrested for allegedly wearing her hijab too “loose”—a style deemed to be “improper” by the Iranian authorities.

Tragically, Amini passed away while in the custody of Iran’s morality police, sparking outrage and further fueling protests across the country.

The event also sparked rallies worldwide, commemorating Amini’s life and demanding justice. Cities like Paris, London, Brussels, and Berlin witnessed gatherings that echoed the sentiment of solidarity and the urgent need to speak out against injustice.

According to The Independent, Salehi was initially arrested in October 2022 after making public statements in support of the protests. Although initially granted bail and scheduled for release in November, the famous Iranian rapper was promptly re-arrested by security forces within two weeks.

In an interview with The National in July 2023, a German MP advocating for Salehi’s release asserted that his trial lacked any semblance of legality, a common criticism levelled against the Iranian regime’s treatment of dissidents.

The MP stated: “Everything took place behind closed doors. This fact alone underscores the flimsiness of the Iranian regime’s allegations against Toomaj. As far as I know, he is still suffering from the injuries he sustained when he was tortured. His eye, his hand, his ribs and his legs were never treated. Now that he has been released from solitary confinement, I really hope that he will get the treatment he needs.”

However, the Iranian Court of Isfahan’s ruling appears unchanged, as Salehi remains condemned to death for his involvement in the nationwide demonstrations. As affirmed by his attorney, Amir Raeesian, the rapper’s fate was decided after the court charged him with “corruption on earth.” For context, this legal phrase refers to the concept of spreading mischief or moral corruption in a Muslim land.

Human Rights Watch has condemned the rapper’s trial and the subsequent death sentence as a “cruel and outrageous assault on fundamental freedoms and the right to a fair trial.”

“Human Rights Watch opposes the death penalty in all circumstances because it is inherently cruel and irreversible. Since the crackdown against protests, Iran’s judicial authorities have drastically increased the use of vaguely defined national security charges against protesters that carry the death penalty, including for destroying public property,” the organisation continued.

Salehi’s lawyer has declared intentions to appeal the death sentence. As of now, Iranian authorities have not issued any official response.

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