Iranian Rapper Toomaj Salehi Sentenced To Death For Protest Music

An Iranian court sentenced progressive recording artist Toomaj Salehi to death on Wednesday (April 24) after arrest over his anti-government corruption song lyrics in his music, according to the artist’s lawyer.

“The primary court sentenced Toomaj Salehi to the harshest punishment, death, on the charge of ‘corruption on Earth,” Amir Raesian, Salehi’s attorney, told the press. 

The rapper’s lawyer criticized the revolutionary court’s decision, which contradicted the Iranian Supreme Court’s ruling that Salehi’s case qualified for amnesty due to “obvious legal conflicts.”

“We will definitely appeal this sentence,” said Raesian.

The 33-year-old rap star and his progressive hip-hop have gained 2.3 million Instagram followers since 2017. In his last music video before his October 2022 arrest, he 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.”

In “The Mouse Hole” song, Salehi warns collaborators with the Islamic Republic to find a place to hide as they will be punished for their wrongdoings soon.

“Corporate journalist, cheap informer, court artist, buy a mouse hole,” the lyrics read.

Before Wednesday’s court ruling, Salehi was arrested multiple times by Iranian forces for calling out the regime’s corruption and suppression of dissent in his music. He criticized the regime’s apologists who “whitewash” those crimes.

In 2021, he was arrested for releasing songs against the government and continued to post music videos expressing his opposition to the Iranian regime. In 2022, he voiced support for protests in Iran following the death of Mahsa Amini, who died in police custody for allegedly not complying with the country’s hijab laws.

Other Iranian artists have shared their thoughts on Salehi’s ruling, and one compares it to a “black comedy.” Mehdi Yarrahi, an Iranian pop singer, tweeted on X: 

“Death sentence news. It remains a black comedy due to its lack of foundation. Release my brother unconditionally, the smoke of this fire will burn your eyes.”

Popular social media influencers posted about Salehi’s verdict on Wednesday to build awareness and support. “Please don’t stay quiet, especially if you’re non-Iranian,” said Nazanin Nour, actress, in an Instagram post to her 287,000 followers. “Please stay aware and don’t be fooled by their [Iranian government] propaganda.”

Hip-hop is currently facing two major trials, Young Thug and YNW Melly. In both cases, lyrics are used as evidence in court, coinciding with Salehi’s ruling.