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IRAN: Toomaj Salehi Imprisoned for Music Supporting Protests

July 12, 2023 IN WIP
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by Mammad Aidani

Toomaj Salehi is a prominent young Iranian musician. He is a rapper who was among the most public supporters of the “Woman, Life, Freedom” movement in Iran before he was arrested, imprisoned, interrogated, tortured and filmed forcefully confessing.  Toomaj is an innocent artist and freedom fighter languishing in Iranian prison in Isfahan. Illegally extracting confessions by torture and then broadcasting them on Iranian state media is a common way of intimidating and silencing other opponents and Iranian society at large.  Toomaj’s songs are directly critical of the Islamic regime and those indifferent to its oppression, brutality, and abuse of the human rights of Iranians. Toomaj was arrested during anti-Iranian Islamic regime protests in Iran last year and faced charges of “Corruption on Earth”, which according to the Islamic law of the regime, carries a lengthy prison sentence or the death penalty. The Islamic regime has used this law against its critics and opponents for the last 44 years. Owing to the enormous international effort, Toomaj has just been given a sentence of six years and three months.

Toomaj is in a highly critical situation and has been kept in solitary confinement. PEN Melbourne strongly condemns the brutal treatment of Toomaj, who has the right to express himself in his songs and writing. We are gravely concerned about his well-being and demand that he — as well as all other persecuted writers and artists in Iran — be immediately released from prison, so that he can return to society and continue to do what he does best: fearlessly expressing himself through his songs without threats by the Iranian Islamic regime.

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People say that (writers) are pretty powerless: we don’t have an army, we don’t have a bureaucracy. But if that were true, then why would writers be arrested?... Because the spoken word is powerful.

— John Ralston Saul on the work of PEN International