Iranian rapper sentenced to death

Apr 28, 2024

PEN Sydney condemns the death sentence issued to Toomaj Salehi and demands his immediate release

Last week the Islamic regime in Iran sentenced the Iranian rapper Toomaj Salehi to death over his involvement in the Woman, Life, Freedom movement in 2022-23.  Toomaj Salehi’s lawyer Amir Raisian confirmed the news in an interview with Sharq newspaper. Salehi is known as a dissident rapper whose songs cover social and political questions in Iran and promote freedom, equality and social justice. One of his songs supports the widespread public protests sparked by the death in police custody of Zhina (Mahsa) Amini, a 22-year-old Kurdish woman.

The news of Toomaj Salehi’s death sentence has sparked widespread protests around the world. Many international and human rights organisations have demanded the death sentence be dropped and called for his immediate release. On Thursday 25 April UN experts including Javaid Rehman, Special Rapporteur on human rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran, demanded the immediate release of Toomaj Salehi and urged Iranian authorities to reverse his death sentence.

“Criticism of government policy, including through artistic expression is protected under the rights to freedom of expression and the right to take part in cultural life. It must not be criminalised,” the experts said. “Art must be allowed to criticise, to provoke, to push the boundaries in any society.”

According to an Amnesty International report the Islamic regime in Iran executed 853 people in 2023, the highest annual number of executions in the last eight years.

The regime in Iran also has a horrendous track record against freedom of expression. Dozens of writers, journalists, bloggers, citizen journalist, activists and artists are in prison and hundreds have been released on strict and heavy bail conditions. Many have been tortured, executed, abducted, assassinated or have vanished. Iran is ranked 177th out of 180 countries on Reporters Without Borders’ 2023 World Press Freedom Index, with 87 journalists detained in connection with the Woman, Life, Freedom protest movement from 2022 to 2023, and 15 still remaining behind bars.

PEN Sydney expresses its outrage against Toomaj Salehi’s death sentence. We believe that in writing his songs he is exercising his basic human right to express himself. Toomaj must not be persecuted for expressing himself and for being the voice of the voiceless. His death sentence is another example of the brutality of the regime in Iran that does not tolerate a society where people live in peace and where freedom flourishes.



Skip to content