Tribute to Toomaj

“The hanging rope I will embrace with pride. Our voice will be a bullet to the heart of this prison. We’ll see you on the other side of the wall. My friend, put the key of blood in the lock of freedom. »

This song by rapper Toomaj Salehi resurfaced on social media after the latter was sentenced to death last week in Iran, his country of origin. A song written to denounce the executions by the ayatollah regime of demonstrators who took part in the popular uprising which followed the death of the young Mahsa Amini at the hands of the authorities, on September 16, 2022.

To date, at least nine young Iranian men have suffered this fate and at least 21 have been sentenced to death.

Watch the music video for the song, subtitled in French

These executions and death threats are only a small part of the terrible price paid by the rising Iranian generation who gathered under the slogan “Woman, life, freedom” with their courage as their only protection.

At least 500 protesters – many of them very young women – were killed during the demonstrations that rocked the country for months.

On Tuesday, the BBC released an investigation into the death of Nika Shakarami, just 16 years old. The British media got their hands on a document from the Revolutionary Guards relating the circumstances of his death. We learn that the teenager was targeted by the paramilitary force for her “leadership role” and that she was beaten to death in a refrigerated truck by three jailers. In September 2022, when she was found lifeless a week after her disappearance, Iranian authorities claimed she had committed suicide.

Toomaj Salehi was arrested the following month after posting a song online praising Nika Shakarami and other Iranian protesters, titled Battlefield.


A protester calls for an end to executions in Iran during a rally in Berlin on April 28

Until recently, we thought that the rapper had avoided the worst. Sentenced to six years in prison by the First Revolutionary Court of Isfahan in July 2023, his sentence was overturned by the country’s Supreme Court on November 18 of the same year and the rapper regained his freedom. A freedom that he hastened to seize.

On November 27, 2023, he published a video in which he denounced the torture and mistreatment he suffered in prison. Just three days later, he was arrested again for crimes for which he had already been tried. And he had to appear again in the same court. A nightmarish Groundhog Day for the 33-year-old rapper.

On April 24, his lawyer announced his death sentence in Iranian media. Since then, gestures of solidarity with the singer have multiplied.

Outside Iran, where members of the diaspora have organized demonstrations, sometimes in Paris, sometimes in Toronto, sometimes in Montreal. Inside the Islamic Republic, where voices are being raised everywhere – in the streets and on social networks – to pay tribute to him and demand his immediate release.


Demonstration in Berlin against the death penalty imposed on Toomaj Salehi and other Iranians, April 28

This polyphonic concert has the side effect of waking up the rest of the world to the volcano of anger which is all but extinct in Iran. The social unrest that is easy to forget when the ayatollah regime exchanges drones and missiles with the Israeli army. To the repression, too, which has resumed with a vengeance since the arrival of spring.

And it all seems linked. “Historically, when there is regional tension, the Iranian regime tends to close the space for dissent even more in the country,” notes Tara Sepehri Far, of Human Rights Watch. “It may seem counterintuitive, since it is not the best time to agitate your population when you need their support, but the Islamic Republic has always seen dissent as an additional risk. That said, the resistance of the population is strong,” says the researcher, who closely follows the situation in Iran and Kuwait for the international rights organization.

Resist. In this regard, the Iranians are consistent in their ideas. “There is real opposition in Iran, this is not a fashion. People have been fighting for 45 years,” says Sherazad Adib, one of the driving forces behind the “Woman, Life, Freedom” movement in Montreal.

Toomaj Salehi is also an heir of this long battle to end. His father spent eight years behind bars for his opposition to the same regime.

Defining himself as a “metal worker” for the family business, the Iranian born in 1990 was 24 years old when he began his musical career, never leaving any doubt about his desire to denounce the political repression as well as economic and social inequalities. The 2022 protests have made him an icon. A spokesperson.

When he was arrested again in November, he told his fans not to cry over his fate. If we seek to silence him, it is because his voice is a bullet to the heart of tyranny.


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