Protesters in support of Toomaj Salehi in Milan

Iranian Diaspora Continues To Protest Death Sentence For Dissident Rapper

Friday, 04/26/2024

Iranian diaspora has taken to the streets since Wednesday to protest against the dissident rapper Toomaj Salehi's death sentence as calls for continuation of protests over the weekend are mounting.

Rallies are being held in several European, US, and Canadian cities, including London, Bonn, The Hague, Frankfurt, Berlin, Hamburg, Milan, Copenhagen, Montreal, and Washington, to urge their governments to halt the execution.

Protests are also planned for the weekend in Melbourne, Sydney, Vancouver, Vienna, Prague, and Port Douglas.

"We are here to get the international community to put pressure on Iran to stop Toomaj's execution," a protester in Berlin told Iran International on Friday.

A group of Iranians in Washington DC are staging a sit-down strike. "Within 24 hours of Toomaj's death sentence being announced, we started a strike in Washington, and many people joined us despite it being during work hours. We plan to continue protesting over the weekend," Siamak Aram, a protester and political analyst, told Iran International on Friday.

Toomaj Salehi's death sentence by the Revolutionary Court of Isfahan has been criticized widely domestically and internationally since his lawyer announced the verdict on Wednesday.

A 2021 single by Toomaj Salehi, Rat Hole, broke the underground Iranian rap scene. In the song, he attacked Iranians outside and inside Iran who chose to support the regime or did not use their platforms to enhance or relay the voices of struggling and dissenting Iranians.

He became a household name and a symbol of heroic resistance when he joined protesters in 2022 that erupted over the death of Mahsa Amini, fatally injured in police custody for wearing an "improper" hijab.

Toomaj Salehi was initially arrested in 2022, when the intelligence ministry in Isfahan province violently arrested him again for his artistic activities in support of the anti-government movement. He was tortured severely and forced to make televised "confessions" while in custody.

After avoiding a death sentence due to a Supreme Court ruling, he was sentenced to six years and three months in prison in July 2023.

Salehi's lawyer said that the Revolutionary Court of Isfahan later issued new charges in addition to those he had previously been cleared of.

The defense team for Toomaj Salehi has 20 days to file an appeal against the ruling - and they will, according to his lawyer, Amir Raesian.

Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old woman, who died in the custody of Iran's hijab police in 2022

Mahsa Amini's mother, the icon of the nationwide protests during which more than 550 people were killed, also condemned the outspoken rapper’s harsh sentence on Thursday.

“Let Toomaj breathe so that his mother and the mothers of my land don't die,” she said.

On Thursday, Amnesty International also issued the following statement: “Iranian authorities must quash Toomaj Salehi’s conviction and death sentence and release him immediately.”

In videos circulating on the Internet, posters of him are seen on the walls and highways of Iran. There were also reports from Tehran of night-time chants against the regime, as well as youngsters writing slogans on city walls in support of the increasingly popular artist.

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