Iranian rapper Toomaj Salehi sentenced to death for protesting against government

Iranian rapper Toomaj Salehi sentenced to death - pictured here: Protesters in support of Salehi in The Hague, Netherlands.
Iranian rapper Toomaj Salehi sentenced to death - pictured here: Protesters in support of Salehi in The Hague, Netherlands. Copyright Getty Images
Copyright Getty Images
By David Mouriquand
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Popular rapper Toomaj Salehi has been sentenced to death in Iran, for supporting nationwide protests sparked by the death of Mahsa Amini.


Dissident rapper Toomaj Salehi has been given a death sentence for his involvement in the widespread protests that swept Iran in 2022.

“An order for the execution of Toomaj Salehi has been issued,” Salehi’s lawyer Amir Raesian stated.

The rapper has been detained, held in solitary confinement and was allegedly tortured following his arrest.

In an unprecedented move, a court in Isfahan reversed the higher Supreme Court’s decision on Saleh’s case last week, upholding the original verdict of “corruption on earth” and issued the maximum punishment of death, according to Iranian pro-reform outlets Shargh and Entekhab.

State media said Salehi’s sentence is subject for reduction by a pardoning committee if he appeals again.

A woman holds a poster of rapper Toomaj Salehi, who was arrested over his support of the Mahsa Amini protests
A woman holds a poster of rapper Toomaj Salehi, who was arrested over his support of the Mahsa Amini protestsGetty Images

Salehi, 32, has been critical of the Iranian regime and outspoken against the government in rap lyrics and on social media.

He was involved in weeks-long protests that swept the country after the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini, which resulted in a brutal crackdown on protests by the Iranian authorities. Amini died in the custody of the country’s morality police after being detained for wearing her hijab too loosely.

Salehi is mainly known for his protest songs concerning Iran's societal issues and the policies of the government of the Islamic Republic of Iran - songs including 'Mouse Hole', 'Turkmenchay' and 'Pomegranate.'

His last music YouTube video posted prior to his 2022 arrest included the lyrics: "Someone's crime was dancing with her hair in the wind / Someone's crime was that he or she was brave and criticized... 44 years of your government / It's the year of failure."

Salehi isn’t the only artist to have been targeted for showing opposition to the government. The Kurdish-Iranian rapper Saman Yasin, who was also arrested at the height of 2022’s protests in Iran, was taken to a psychiatric hospital twice in less than a year, per pro-reform news outlet IranWire. A court in Tehran sentenced Yasin to five years in prison, according to Kurdish human rights group Hengaw.

The recent news has sparked outcry from human rights organisations.

“We strongly condemn Toomaj Salehi’s death sentence and the five-year sentence for Kurdish-Iranian rapper Saman Yasin. We call for their immediate release,” the United States’ Office of the Special Envoy for Iran tweeted. “These are the latest examples of the regime’s brutal abuse of its own citizens, disregard for human rights, and fear of the democratic change the Iranian people seek.”

UN experts also called for Salehi’s release, urging Iranian authorities to reverse the death sentence.

“We are alarmed by the imposition of the death sentence and the alleged ill-treatment of Mr. Salehi which appears to be related solely to the exercise of his right to freedom of artistic expression and creativity,” the experts said.

Meanwhile, Salehi’s political sponsor in Europe, German Member of Parliament Ye-One Rhie, described the death sentence as “absurd and inhumane.”

“It is still completely unclear how this verdict came about,” she said. “It is unbelievable how irresponsibly and arbitrarily the Iranian regime treats defendants. It is impossible to recognize the rule of law in the chaos of the courts in charge.”

The Recording Academy also released a statement on the case, saying they were “deeply troubled” by the sentencing.

“No artist should have to fear for their life or livelihood when expressing themselves through their art. Music is a powerful force for good in the world and is needed today more than ever. We stand with music creators across the globe who use their gifts to shed light on the human condition and will continue to work tirelessly to protect artistic freedom.”

Additional sources • Amnesty International, Shargh and Entekhab

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