The Center for Human Rights in Iran (CHRI) Thursday urged the international community to demand the release of Toomaj Salehi, a rapper and voice of Iran’s protest movement. Iran police arrested and detained Salehi for taking part in protests sparked by the death of Mahsa Amini, who was killed while in custody for improper dressing.
CHRI Executive Director Hadi Ghaemi commented:
Toomaj rapped about political and social issues that Iranian authorities have long tried to conceal from domestic and foreign audiences to ward off criticism of their repressive policies. Toomaj took extreme personal risks by further exposing issues that the state wants to hide, like child labour and political repression, through his art.
Ghaemi said that Salehi has been detained since October 2022 for offences that in Iran could result in the death penalty. He has been charged with “corruption on Earth,” which carries the death penalty, as well as “propaganda against the state,” “collaboration with hostile governments,” and other offences punishable by one to ten years in prison. No date has been set for the trial. Toomaj has been segregated from all other inmates in Dastgerd Prison, a maximum security facility run by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC).
Ghaemi underscored the significance of international pressure on the rapper’s release, citing immediate medical attention as one of the reasons for his release. Sources close to the rapper have lamented the rapper’s dwindling support, despite the fact that his trial has yet to begin. The Iranian government initially denied Salehi the right to legal representation as well as the right to prepare a defence in accordance with the charges leveled against him but later allowed him access to a lawyer.
Following the release of a video by the state media showing Salehi with bruises on his face and a blindfold covering his eyes while apologizing for his words, the rapper’s family members and supporters cited instances of torture to obtain a false confession. His family also revealed that the state withheld his location from them in the early days of his arrest, and that police purposefully misled his father by giving him the wrong directions.
In an interview with CHRI, one of the sources said:
Toomaj was severely tortured during the first days of his arrest. His left eye was badly damaged due to the blows he received to his head. The condition of his injured eye is not clear. During this time, he has not received proper medical attention. Toomaj’s right ankle was also broken as a result of torture and physical abuse and he may need surgery.
The sources are still pleading with the international community to put pressure on the Iranian government to free Salehi and prioritize his health over all else. Human rights organizations and activists have launched a petition calling for the rapper’s release and the overthrow of the corrupt government in an effort to raise awareness of the situation.