From the International Emergency Campaign to Free Iran’s Political Prisoners Now (IEC)

Death Sentence for Toomaj Still Stands:
Voices Worldwide Rise Against Execution Surge of Iran’s Political and Other Prisoners

May 20, 2024

Permalink: editors’ note: We received the following from the International Emergency Campaign to Free Iran’s Political Prisoners Now (IEC).

Threat of Execution Continues

The execution order for rapper Toomaj Salehi is in effect as of this writing. Iran’s theocrats want to kill him for supporting the Woman, Life, Freedom uprising (2022-2023) and his overall rebellious art and activism against the misogynistic regime. Toomaj is dangerously cut off from any contact with his family, his lawyers or even other prisoners since the day after his sentencing (April 24). Prison authorities said they would grant him a face-to-face visit with his father only if it is filmed. Toomaj and his family have refused this outrageous condition of the absolute lack of privacy.

Toomaj’s lawyers have filed an appeal of the death sentence. They cited the lack of evidence or merit to the charges. They also pointed to the bizarre process of the case, which had been sent back to the lower court by Iran’s fascist Supreme Court on appeal for errors in the initial trial. Instead of correcting noted problems, the lower court vindictively sentenced him to death. 

Amid Rampant Executions 

As was reported last week, executions in Iran continue at a horrifying pace with one person hanged every 5-6 hours daily.1 There has been a rising chorus, and various sizes of protests, against Toomaj’s death sentence and executions in Iran in recent and coming weekends around the world, especially in Europe and Australia.

There are also reports of some protest activities inside Iran. 

Toomaj support graffiti and flyering inside Iran, May 2024

From Colombia with Love for Humanity

On May 11-12, an internationalist festival of the oppressed took place in Colombia sending love to Toomaj and Iran’s political prisoners. It was organized by the IEC’s sister campaign in Colombia—Quemar la Jaula (“Burn the Cage”). It brought the fierce rebel spirit of Toomaj and Iran’s resisters to the city walls and onto center stage with great enthusiasm and creativity. Their demand was Freedom for Toomaj and all political prisoners in Iran! 

Jornada de Cultura para la Vida de Toomaj Salehi (Day of Culture for the Life of Rebel Rapper Toomaj Salehi)

Casa de Cultura Las Estancias in the city of Medellín hosted a full Day of Culture. This cultural space in the downpressed neighborhood of Comuna 8 has been called “the birthplace of many rap groups,” as described by rapper El Mocho Barrio. A bold and beautiful mural of Toomaj appeared on the wall in front of the Casa de Cultura. A series of large boards around the venue illustrated the stories of Iran’s different political prisoners in an up close and personal way. There were enlargements of IEC’s Emergency Appeal and also information about the Quemar La Jaula campaign. Volunteers gave a presentation followed by hip hop performances from community rappers to a lively audience. The next day, a number of youth who had attended the Day of Culture on the day before, then joined onstage at the Festival R-A-P holding up lettering that spelled out Free Toomaj. 

Intervención por la libertad de Toomaj – Festival Erre Apé 2024 (Medellín, Colombia)

Rapper El Mocho Barrio, who later led the audience in a call and response, introduced the event: “Tonight I am with a big movement. We are protesting because a brother of ours in the nation of hip hop, a rapper, is going to be murdered, a rapper in Iran for speaking the truth, for supporting the movement of women, for supporting justice, for supporting the struggle, for supporting the truth in Iran….”

Another MC added: “Brothers and sisters, in a world where injustice and oppression are our daily bread, the people who stand up to protest all this are silenced and oppressed…. That can’t happen in any part of the world…. So today I do raise my hand and raise my voice, not just for Toomaj and not just because he is a rapper, because he is much more than that. We are one single humanity and I raise my hand, not just for him but for all the people whose freedom has been ripped from them unjustly… [applause]”

Solidarity Echoes Around the World

Throughout last week, there were important expressions of solidarity from more artists worldwide. Besides the Index on Censorship statement, a Letter from 100+ artists was circulated, signed by Peter Gabriel, Tom Morello, Duran Duran, Michael Shannon and Chrissie Hynde.

Miles Solay of the band Outernational shared a thoughtful and heartfelt note on IG:

Toomaj Salehi, the revolutionary artist, whose defiant courage, principles and art has inspired millions and exposed a brutal and archaic system. The death sentence imposed on Toomaj has given rise now to outrage and protest in Iran, at great risk to those who have stood up. Now that outrage is beginning to unfold internationally…. [T]he profound difference the artists who stand with the people can make. The inspiration. The courage. The conviction… which stands in stark contrast to the self-involved, degrading art that saturates our culture and keeps the people’s hearts and minds locked within what is a horrible world instead of what could be and what should be fought for, a whole new world and new way to live for humanity. Standing up for Toomaj is standing up for the values he embodies in his art and his defiance of the personal cost. Standing up for Toomaj is standing up for those principles and that defiance. The world needs Toomaj Salehi and we need many more to live like that and make art like that….

These words capture the forward-looking culture and world we need. It speaks to the need for a revolt against the revolting culture of today that accepts the status quo and its culture saturated with misogyny, hedonism, fatalism, money and self. The IEC has spotlighted the fight for a talented and uncompromising an artist as Toomaj to promote an uplifting culture for the better world that many of Iran’s political prisoners embody or fight for. 

Former poet laureate of Vallejo, D.L. Lang, at An Evening of Cultural Revolt to Free Toomaj Salehi and All Political Prisoners.

From the IEC’s inception, as seen by browsing its website, we have not been limited to focus only on the political realm. We are inspired by the persistent heroism of many of Iran’s political prisoners, many of whom put it all on the line against Iran’s religious fanaticism that savagely subjugates women. We have promoted the art, artists, and culture that strengthen the rebellion against such oppression and repression and also points to a liberating future for humanity. It is toward this, from diverse political viewpoints that unite us in this struggle, that we say to Ian’s reactionary regime: Free all the political prisoners NOW! And to say to the U.S. imperialists: No threats or war moves against Iran, lift U.S. sanctions! 

Rafael Jesús González reading his poem “El Cabello de la mujer/The Hair of Women” at Revolution Books Berkeley in 2023.    Photo: IEC

“Jailed for singing”

Rafael Jesús González, former poet laureate of Berkeley, had written a poem for the one year anniversary of the Woman, Life, Freedom uprising that was read at An Evening of Poetry at Revolution Books Berkeley. His poem “The Hair of Women” in honor of Mahsa Jina Amini was translated into Farsi and posted at here. He recently wrote and sent the following poem in Spanish and English for Toomaj Salehi to the IEC:

Encarcelado por cantar

a Toomaj Salehi

El canario es enjaulado
para que lo oigamos cantar
cuando el sol de la mañana
vuelva sus alas tullidas en oro; 
es pecado contra el vuelo y canto.
Y cuando el poeta es encarcelado
para silenciar su canto, es pecado
contra la humanidad y el espíritu.
Donde sus alas hubieran,
sólo cicatrices del chicote. 
“Corrupción en la Tierra,” gritó el juez;
¿Dónde mas pudiera haber corrupción
y dónde mas el hambre por la libertad?
“Soy el poema” dijo el poeta, “soy 
la llama que surgió del polvo.”
Desean su muerte pero el canto
y el anhelo que le da nacer
son tan eternos e inevitables
como la luz del sol.

Jailed for Singing

for Toomaj Salehi

The canary is caged 
so we can hear it sing 
when the morning sun 
turns its wasted wings to gold; 
it is a sin against flight & song. 
And when the poet is jailed 
to silence his song, it is a sin 
against humanity and the spirit. 
Where his wings would have been 
only scars from the whip. 
“Corruption on Earth,” cried the judge;  
where else can there be corruption 
and where else hunger for freedom? 
“I am the poem,” said the poet, “I am 
the flame risen from the dust.” 
They want his death but song 
and the yearning that births it 
are as eternal and inevitable 
as the light of the sun

© Rafael Jesús González 2024



1. IEC, May 13, 2024 [back]