Human Rights Watch Urges Iran to Release Rapper Toomaj Salehi

Опубликовано: 14 Май 2024

Toomaj Salehi IranProtesters demand freedom for Iranian rapper Toomaj Salehi. (Photo: Joe Flood, Flickr, License)

Human Rights Watch has once again called for the release of rapper Toomaj Salehi, who was sentenced to death last month by an Iranian court for his critical stance against the Tehran regime and his support for the women's rights movement.

Salehi, 33, is facing the death penalty due to his songs supporting the 2022 anti-regime protests that erupted following the tragic death of Mahsa Amini while in police custody. Amini was detained for not conforming to government-mandated hijab standards and passed away during her detention, sparking widespread unrest in the country.

The sentencing of Salehi marks a severe crackdown on dissent.

He was arrested in October 2022 after he posted videos that were encouraging protesters. In November, Salehi was charged with spreading corruption on earth, a charge that can lead to capital punishment under strict interpretations of sharia law. U.N. officials expressed concerns about the lack of legal representation during Salehi's trial and reports of torture while in detention.

"The precedent of bringing charges against a rapper for speech is particularly outrageous and concerning,” Tara Sepehri Far, senior Iran researcher at Human Rights Watch told OCCRP on Tuesday. “Toomaj has already endured abuses in detention, and these vaguely defined national security charges against him are bogus. He should be released."

The death sentence has triggered demonstrations globally, with rallies held in the US, Europe, and Canada in solidarity with Salehi. Dozens of political prisoners in Iran’s Ghezal Hesar prison have denounced the sentence, linking it to ongoing human rights violations within Iran.

The office of the U.S. Special Envoy for Iran described it as "another example of the regime’s brutal abuse of its own citizens, disregard for human rights, and fear of the democratic change the Iranian people seek."

Amir Raesian, Salehi’s attorney, told an Iranian daily that he planned to appeal the verdict.