Toomaj Salehi: Family fears for lifetime of rapper ‘violently arrested’ after encouraging Iranians to protest



CNN
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“Someone’s crime was that her hair was flowing in the wind. Someone’s crime was that he or she was brave and were outspoken.”

These lyrics might price Iranian rap artist Toomaj Salehi his life. In some other nation he might have simply rapped concerning the day-to-day issues going through his countrymen with out consequence.

However as a result of he lives in Iran, Salehi’s destiny is sort of totally different.

The 32-year-old underground dissident rapper was violently arrested final Saturday together with two of his buddies, his uncle stated, and now faces accusations of crimes which are punishable by demise, in line with Iranian state media.

As many as 14,000 folks in Iran have been arrested together with journalists, activists, attorneys and educators throughout protests which have rocked the nation since September, in line with a high United Nations official.

The unrest was sparked by the demise of Mahsa Amini, the 22-year-old Kurdish Iranian girl who died on September 16 after being detained by “morality police” and brought to a “re-education center,” allegedly for not sporting her hijab correctly.

“I woke up at two o’clock in the morning with a phone call from Toomaj’s friend saying ‘our whereabouts have been leaked,’” Salehi’s uncle Eghbal Eghbali advised CNN in an interview. “Since then we have been worried about what has happened to Toomaj.”

Eghbali says he discovered by means of Salehi’s buddies later that morning that about 50 folks raided his nephew’s residence in Chaharmahal and Bakhtiari Province, in southwestern Iran.

The rapper is accused of “propagandistic activity against the government, cooperation with hostile governments and forming illegal groups with the intention of creating insecurity in the country,” state-run IRNA stated, quoting the Esfahan province judiciary.

Salehi’s uncle stated his nephew is presently detained in a jail within the metropolis of Isfahan, and that he has info he was tortured. Salehi is a resident of Shahin Shahr, about 20km north of Isfahan.

“We still do not know anything about Toomaj’s health condition. The family has tried very hard to even just hear his voice, but no one has given us any information about Toomaj,” he stated. “We don’t even know if Toomaj and his friends are alive or not.”

Salehi’s buddies who had been arrested with him over the weekend, boxing champion Mohammad Reza Nikraftar and kickboxer Najaf Abu Ali, additionally haven’t been heard from since, Eghbali stated.

“The accused played a key role in creating, inviting and encouraging riots in Isfahan province and in the city of Shahin Shahr,” a spokesperson for Isfahan Province Judiciary, Seyyed Mohammad Mousavian stated in line with IRNA.

After his arrest, a brief video clip of what seems to be Salehi blindfolded emerged on state-backed information company, the Younger Journalists Membership (YJC). Salehi seems to be beneath duress voicing regret for remarks he made on social media.

Salehi’s uncle was adamant that the person within the video was not his nephew, including that the federal government had political targets in releasing the brief clip. Eghbali additionally rejects the federal government’s declare that his nephew was operating away on the time of his arrest.

“Absolutely not,” Eghbali stated. “Because where Toomaj was living or where we are in Chaharmahal and Bakhtiari Province, basically we have no way to the border. This is a very crackbrained claim. Anyone who knows the geography of Iran will not believe such claim.”

Because the starting of the nationwide protests which began in mid-September, Salehi, who IRNA stated was additionally detained in September 2021, has been calling for Iranians to protest towards the federal government.

“None of us have different color blood,” Salehi posted on Instagram. “Don’t forget our amazing union and do not allow them to create division between us, in this bloody and sad heaven.”

Salehi, who himself is of Bakhtiari ethnic background, has lengthy rapped about Iran’s multi-ethnic make-up, encouraging unity amongst Iranians of various ethnic backgrounds.

“Stand with us, we stood by you for years,” Salehi raps in his music “Meydoone jang” which interprets as “The Battlefield.”

“It’s not enough to be rebellious, we have revolutionary roots. Arab, Assyrian, Armenian, Turkmen, Mazandari, Sistani, Baluch, Talysh, Tatar, Azeri, Kurd, Gilaki, Lor, Farsi and Qashqai, we are the unity of rivers: we are the sea.”

Iranian rap artist Toomaj Salehi was arrested last Saturday alongside two of his friends.

Days earlier than his arrest, Salehi posted movies of himself alongside protesters on the road on Instagram. Since then, his followers, Iranians within the diaspora, in addition to musicians and activists, have known as for his launch.

“A lot of rappers have come out and supported him,” Iranian rapper, songwriter and activist Erfan Paydar advised CNN. “Toomaj’s bravery of protesting in the streets encouraged others to get out there and speak up and made people think ‘if he’s willing to go out there and he’s not scared, then maybe we shouldn’t be.’”

Paydar stated that Salehi just lately shared a message along with his trusted buddies which was to be launched within the occasion he was arrested. “You will go forward according to my operation. You are my most trusted person,” the message reads.

“The priority is with the students and workers, you will cover all calls for protests, you will not support any party or group, do not write much about the prisoners unless their condition worsens and they have no voice. Concentrate on attack not defense.”

Safety forces have arrested a number of musicians and artists together with two different rappers who had been concerned in protests – Emad Ghavidel from Rasht and Kurdish rapper Saman Yasin from Kermanshah.

Ghavidel was launched on bond and described in an Instagram publish how he was tortured and had his tooth smashed. Yasin was subjected to extreme psychological and bodily torture throughout his time in custody, in line with Hengaw, and sentenced to demise in a sham trial.

“Toomaj’s mother was a political prisoner,” Salehi’s uncle who lives in Germany advised CNN. “She has passed away a long time ago…if my sister was still alive, she would become Toomaj’s voice. The same as I am Toomaj’s voice. The same as many who are on the streets [in Iran] are the voice of Toomaj.”

Because the demise of Mahsa Amini in custody, protesters throughout Iran have coalesced round a variety of grievances with the regime. In the meantime, Iranian authorities have been stepping up efforts to finish the rebellion. Round 1,000 folks have been charged within the Tehran province for his or her alleged involvement within the protests, state information company IRNA reported final week.

The trials of these accused will likely be heard in public over the approaching days, IRNA stated, citing Ali Al-Qasi Mehr, chief justice of Tehran province.

Iranian media stated final weekend that the trials for a number of demonstrators had began the earlier week.