April 26, 2024 | Flash Brief

Iran Sentences Popular Rapper to Death Amid Widening Crackdown on Dissent

April 26, 2024 | Flash Brief

Iran Sentences Popular Rapper to Death Amid Widening Crackdown on Dissent

Latest Developments

Tehran’s judiciary confirmed the death sentence of a prominent Iranian hip-hop artist, Toomaj Salehi, on charges of “corruption on earth,” Reuters reported on April 25. Despite an earlier ruling by Iran’s Supreme Court’s that the “corruption on earth” charge is not applicable to Salehi’s case, a lower court  reaffirmed the death sentence. However, the lower court also stated that Salehi is entitled to a potential sentence reduction due to the defendant’s “expression of remorse and cooperation with authorities.”

An outspoken critic of the Islamic Republic, Salehi voiced his support for nationwide protests in September 2022, leading to his arrest the following month. In July 2023, Salehi received a six-year prison sentence, but the judiciary released him in November 2023 after the Supreme Court ruling. Regime security forces then arrested him again for “publishing false information” and “disturbing public opinion.” U.S. Deputy Special Envoy for Iran Abram Paley condemned the death sentence, calling it the latest example “of the regime’s brutal abuse of its own citizens, disregard for human rights, and fear of the democratic change the Iranian people seek.”

Expert Analysis

“Gradually, the Islamic Republic’s judiciary has turned the pressure up on Salehi and now confirmed a death sentence on the rapper, who stood with his compatriots and supported the ‘Women, Life, Freedom’ protests that rocked Iran in 2022-2023. This is the cost the clerical regime imposes on those who speak truth to its power and is but one reason why Iranians continue to contest the regime that rules over them.” — Behnam Ben Taleblu, FDD Senior Fellow

“The Islamic Republic has long used sham trials and arbitrary charges to silence dissent. Toomaj Salehi is one of the many innocent Iranians currently facing the death penalty for simply voicing his discontent against the regime’s human rights violations. Despite these brutal efforts, Iran’s vibrant civil society continues to demonstrate its resilience by calling for an end to the Islamic Republic, which has deprived Iranians of their humanity and national identity.” — Janatan Sayeh, FDD Research Analyst

Iranian Activists Fight Back Against Tehran’s Intensified Repression

The present wave of repression appears to be one of Tehran’s most significant efforts to roll back perceived gains on women’s rights in the aftermath of the 2022-2023 nationwide protests. Yet Iranian civil society continues to showcase its opposition to the regime through acts of civil disobedience, with women defying Tehran’s newly intensified campaign requiring women to wear the hijab, or headscarf. Some 100 Iranian political prisoners and civic activists condemned the regime’s “hostile insistence on homogenizing people’s lifestyles” through the hijab laws. Moreover, in response to a new wave of death sentences and executions issued by the judiciary, political prisoners and civil society organizations have announced a weekly hunger strike campaign.

Iran’s Noor Plan Intensifies Crackdown on Women,” FDD Flash Brief

Iran Executes Four Men Falsely Accused of Mossad Ties,” FDD Flash Brief

Iran’s Uprising Nears First Anniversary as Protests Persist,” FDD Flash Brief


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