On April 24, Iranian rapper Toomaj Salehi was sentenced to death by a court in Isfahan. His crime was writing lyrics in support of the Woman, Life, Freedom movement.

While the American public is struggling to deal with the pro-Hamas encampment protests, the Iran Human Rights Organization (IHRNGO) reports that Iran’s execution rate has surged, with 171 public executions recorded in 2024 alone.

According to their reports, the Iranian government carried out an average of one execution every five hours between April 16 and April 30. Out of the 72 executions carried out this past April, 44 were related to drug offenses. Iran International reports that in 2023, the Islamic Republic saw at least 834 executions across 24 different prisons, highlighting the government’s harsh stance on dissent and non-violent offences.

Iran’s surge in executions is part of a broader pattern of capital punishment in the country, which has seen a significant increase in the pace of carrying out death penalties since the onset of the Woman, Life, Freedom protests in 2022.

Among their prime targets are artists who dare to defy the regime. Art has always been a powerful form of resistance, a means to challenge the status quo and inspire change, and knowing this, the government is attempting to prevent artists from speaking out.

Salehi was initially arrested in 2021, accused of “propaganda against the regime” and “insulting the supreme leadership authority,” although he was released shortly after.

After participating in the Woman, Life, Freedom protests, he was once again arrested in 2022 because of his lyrics, which resonated with Iranians. Salehi was then held and tortured in the infamous Evin prison.

Coldplay, Sting, and 100 figures from the music industry, culture, and human rights activists have signed a letter calling for the release of the Iranian rapper. Unfortunately, Salehi is not the only artist targeted by the regime.

Iranian pop star Shervin Hajipour, whose song “Baraye” became a famous anthem following the execution of Mahsa Amini and the Woman, Life, Freedom protests that ensued, was sentenced to three years and eight months in prison and ordered to write a song about US “atrocities.” The Grammy Award winner was accused of “inciting unrest against national security” and “spreading propaganda against the regime.”

And now, the award-winning Iranian director Mohammad Rasoulof has been sentenced to eight years in prison and lashings just before his planned trip to the Cannes Film Festival. Known for his film There Is No Evil, Rasoulof has become the latest artist targeted in the Islamic Republic’s crackdown on dissidents, especially artists.

These “tribunals” are notorious for denying defendants the right to choose their own lawyers or view the evidence against them during closed-door hearings.

Salehi’s brave lyrics have resonated with a generation of Iranians. Now, the Iranian people are asking us to be Salehi’s voice so we can pressure the Islamic regime to commute his sentence.

The censorship and persecution of artists in Iran are blatant violations of their fundamental rights to freedom of expression and creativity. The international community must continue to support these courageous voices and pressure the Iranian regime to cease its oppressive tactics. Iranian artists deserve the right to speak out against the regime without fear of imprisonment or death. We must be the voices for Salehi, Hajipour, and Rasoulof to protect the cultural and artistic freedoms that are under severe threat in Iran.

Freeing Salehi is about saving an artist from an unjust death sentence, defending the fundamental right to freedom of expression, and standing against the oppressive tactics of a regime that seeks to silence dissent.

Hajipour’s brave lyrics resonate deeply with the Iranian people and represent the voice of a generation yearning for change, justice, and liberty. International pressure and solidarity are crucial to force the Iranian government to overturn his sentence and release him.

By rallying global support through petitions, public demonstrations, and diplomatic efforts, we can help protect Salehi and send a powerful message that the world will not stand by while artists are persecuted for their courage to speak out.

Source » jpost