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Rapper who became the voice of the Iranian revolt is in danger of execution



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Hip-hop artist Toomaj Salehi rapped with blistering conviction concerning the Islamic Revolution’s “failure,” filming himself at protests and galvanizing demonstrators to “battle” the country’s ruling clerical establishment

Now the favored performer might be hanged in public after a court docket charged him with “corruption on earth” — a time period that authorities use to level to a broad vary of offenses that threaten social and political well-being and carries a attainable loss of life sentence. 

Worry for his security have additionally grown after Salehi’s official Twitter account posted Friday that regardless of being in peril of shedding his eyesight, he was being repeatedly crushed. 

The rapper was among the many hundreds who attended demonstrations for Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old Kurdish Iranian lady who was detained in September by the nation’s “morality police’’ after allegedly breaking the nation’s strict costume codes.  She died in a hospital three days later after falling right into a coma.  

The federal government has denied mistreating Amini, however the protests over her loss of life solely grew within the weeks that adopted as more young people died and safety forces brutally cracked down on demonstrators.  Now, what began as an outburst of nationwide anger on the therapy of ladies and women has morphed into a requirement for deep and elementary change.

Iranian mourners march towards Aichi cemetery in Saqez, to mark 40 days since Mahsa Amini's death, on Oct. 26, 2022.
Iranian mourners march in direction of Aichi cemetery in Saqez in Iranian Kurdistan to mark 40 days since Mahsa Amini’s loss of life on Oct. 26, 2022.ESN / AFP – Getty Photos

Utilizing his voice and lyrics, Salehi got here out in assist of the anti-government protesters from the start.

“Unity is the key to our victory, we’re all Iran’s household,” he mentioned within the caption to an Instagram post uploaded Sept. 22, six days after Amini’s loss of life. Within the accompanying video, he stands on a darkened road and speaks on to the digital camera whereas demonstrators round him chant.

On the coronary heart of the protests, and Salehi’s lyrics, is the conviction that the federal government should go. 

In a music video titled “Fal” — which means fortunetelling in Persian — uploaded to YouTube in late October, he raps concerning the “44 years” because the theocratic regime was put in after the Iranian Revolution deposed Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi in 1979.

He takes on the various group, from austere-looking clerics generally known as mullahs to these wearing “go well with and tie that they’ve embezzled,” in addition to “lobbies of the federal government overseas.” 

“What number of younger individuals did you kill to construct towers for your self?” the  rapper calls for of a shadowy determine wearing black. 

“Somebody has misplaced their younger kids and somebody has misplaced their youth. Somebody’s crime was having hair that flows free within the wind,” Salehi sings.  “Somebody’s crime was having a courageous coronary heart and a pointy tongue.”

‘Not a spot for justice’

On Oct. 30, the state information company ISNA reported that intelligence officers had arrested Salehi once more as he was making an attempt to flee the nation. NBC Information couldn’t verify the precise occasions that led to his arrest or verify official accusations as a result of impartial reporting is tightly restricted in Iran.

On Dec. 6, state media ran video of his alleged confession, overlaid by one in all Salehi’s personal protest songs. 

“Music can produce violence,” he mentioned. “I’ve made errors, I do apologize. I apologize to you and the society for any violence that I’ve instigated.” 

Greater than 500,000 individuals have signed a petition for his launch. 

The public execution of Majidreza Rahnavard
The general public execution of Majidreza Rahnavard on Dec. 12, 2022, in Mashhad, Iran, the second capital punishment linked to almost three months of protests.Mizan Information through AFP – Getty Photos

Hadi Ghaemi, the manager director of the New York-based Middle for Human Rights in Iran, mentioned he felt no confidence that the nation’s courts would discover justice for these swept up for demonstrating — together with high-profile detainees like Salehi.

“These courtrooms are actually not a spot of justice since they don’t contain any investigation, due course of or the best of a defendant to defend himself and have impartial counsel,” the Iranian-born Ghaemi mentioned.

Salehi is now ready to see whether or not a loss of life sentence handed in November will probably be upheld. After initially not being allowed authorized illustration of his personal selecting, he was permitted to get entry to non-public attorneys, which was confirmed in a tweet by his counsel, Amir Raesian, on Dec. 29. 

The U.S.-based Human Rights Activists Information Company, or HRANA,  estimates the variety of arrests associated to the protests to be greater than 18,000 individuals. Iran’s judiciary spokesperson has introduced the quantity to be greater than 1,000, in keeping with the official information company IRNA. Two have been executed because the starting of protests, and greater than 20, together with Salehi, face loss of life sentences, in keeping with Amnesty International. 

Iran’s Mizan information company, beneath the nation’s judiciary, reported Saturday that two individuals, Mohammad Mehdi Karami and Seyed Mohammad Hosseini have been executed early Saturday for allegedly killing a safety official, making it 4 males recognized to have been executed because the demonstrations started.  

Whereas Salehi is one in all many to have been detained, few have captured the eye of supporters overseas, in addition to at house. 

Reza Pahlavi, the son of the deposed shah, tweeted his assist for Salehi on his birthday Dec. 3.  

In this Monday, Sept. 19, 2022, photo taken by an individual not employed by the Associated Press and obtained by the AP outside Iran, a police motorcycle and a trash bin are burning during a protest over the death of Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old woman who had been detained by the nation's morality police, in downtown Tehran, Iran. Spontaneous mass gatherings to persistent scattered demonstrations have unfolded elsewhere in Iran, as nationwide protests over the death of a young woman in the custody of the morality police enter their fourth week.
A police bike and a trash bin burn throughout a protest over the loss of life of Mahsa Amini in downtown Tehran in September.AP file

German lawmaker Ye-One Rhie mentioned she had by no means heard of the rapper or his music earlier than she grew to become his political sponsor.

The artist’s fees that carry a loss of life sentence have been handed down “for making music, for rapping about freedom, human rights and injustice,” she instructed NBC Information through e mail in December 

“That’s not a criminal offense. That’s freedom of speech,” she added.  

For weeks, European politicians have taken on the political sponsorships of prisoners in Iran, appearing as advocates by speaking to the media and writing to the European Union and the U.N. to place strain on the Iranian authorities. 

“He expressed the sentiments that most of the people who find themselves protesting on the streets of Iran have towards the regime of the Islamic Republic,” mentioned Rhie, who was elected to the Bundestag, Germany’s federal parliament, in September 2021 and stays abreast of Salehi’s case by conserving in contact with individuals in Iran. “By standing in solidarity with the revolution, and by going out on the streets himself, he made himself a goal.” 

Omid Memarian, a widely known commentator and a critic of the Iranian authorities, additionally tweeted his assist Monday.

“That is Toomaj Salehi,” he wrote, reposting a Salehi video supportive of the protesters. “Take heed to Toomaj. His voice is louder than ever!”

“Right here is the battlefield,” Salehi says within the video. “It’s time to assault the enemy with out worry.”