Global Day to Free Iran’s Political Prisoners and Toomaj at Doorstep of Regime’s NYC Headquarters

International Day in Support of Political Prisoners in Iran

IEC Event

June 20, 2024

June 20 was the global day to support Iran’s political prisoners. The importance of this day was highlighted by a poetic, personal message from rebel rapper Toomaj Salehi and posted on social media by supporters and fans. Unexpectedly two days later, his death sentence was overturned by Iran’s Supreme Court (see article “Death Sentence of Toomaj Salehi Overturned!”).

New York City, Revcoms join march at UN to Free Toomaj, June 20, 2024.    Photo: Screen grab from video by Hideko Otake

The International Emergency Campaign to Free Iran’s Political Prisoners Now (IEC) marked the day by holding events in New York, Berkeley, and Los Angeles. In New York City, the IEC joined this global day with a defiant march and rally right at Iran’s UN Permanent Mission in New York City. The representatives of Iran’s fascist theocratic regime are nestled on the 34th floor of the high-rise where they carry out their role as apologists and promoters for actions that ruin and even end lives in Iran. The protest shined a spotlight and called these officials to account for their indefensible murderous routines that imprison, torture and execute political and ordinary prisoners in Iran at a record rate currently. The protest demanded a stop to the execution of Toomaj Salehi and the immediate release of him and all political prisoners in Iran. At the same time, speakers made clear this campaign is opposed to the reactionary U.S. imperialists using the Islamic Republic’s crimes to make war threats or moves against Iran or continue sanctions—all of which cause greater suffering for the Iranian people.

Some NYC Highlights

A range of determined voices came together to deliver the message that Iran’s many political prisoners, including rap music artist Toomaj, are not alone and must be set free immediately. Video clips are available on IEC’s playlist here.

Raymond Lotta, spokesperson for Revolution Books and advocate for Bob’s Avakian’s new communism, energized the crowd on this fight to “stand with those who put everything on the line for a better world.” His remarks spoke for the sentiments of many there who were listening.

I want to welcome everyone here, and I also want to let everyone who is going to see the documentation of this, people all over the world—and the prisoners in Iran who are going to hear about this—to let these political prisoners know that we are with them! Why are we here? Because we stand with the rebel artist Toomaj who has risked all for a whole new world. Because we stand with the courageous political prisoners of Iran who are going up against a draconian regime that rules through world-class torture [and] repression. We stand with these political prisoners of Iran! We are here today because the struggle of Iranian political prisoners is OUR struggle. If you can't stand injustice, if you can't stand suffering perpetrated by the oppressive regimes of this world imperialist system, then you need to stand with Toomaj and the political prisoners of Iran.

Everyone listen up because I am now issuing a challenge. I am issuing a challenge to the representatives of the IRI, the Islamic Republic of Iran, upstairs in their mission. Come downstairs, come outside, and face the women, the LGBTQ people that are here, the artists and the activists and revolutionaries that are here. Come downstairs and make your case for why you rule through execution, crushing dissent and basic human rights. Make your unmakeable case.

And I want to make it very clear that, while we oppose this oppressive regime, we stand against any and all attempts by U.S. imperialism to attack, to meddle and to strangle the people of Iran through sanctions that have already cost the lives of thousands upon thousands of people. Look, we live in, and we face a world imperialist system, a system of exploitation and oppression. Our choices are not between Western imperialism and its apartheid outpost Israel or dark ages Islamic—or any—fundamentalism. A whole other way, a whole new world is possible through an all the way Revolution. And what we do, how we take up this fight to free the political prisoners in Iran, how energetically we take this up and spread this message—that has everything to do [with] and will contribute powerfully to the cause of emancipating all of humanity. Free Toomaj Now! Free Toomaj Now! Free all Iran's political prisoners!

Jim Fouratt, actor, producer and LGBTQ activist, spoke movingly to the stakes of this struggle, especially for women and artists, and against the rampant executions in Iran (watch video here):

850 executions! 850 executions! We don't hear about the number of women that have been taken off of the street, pulled off the bus, taken from their home because their hair was flowing. We don't hear what happened to them—many of them are dead. And it's not only women that have been seized and killed—it's also men who supported them. So I say to all the men, all the brothers that believe in international solidarity, who believe in a better world—it is possible! You too, like me and the people here, can stand in solidarity with the women that say to the Iranian government “I want to let my hair flow. What the hell is wrong with that!?” ... To the workers in this building, to the people that are here representing Iran, I want to reach out to you and say:  a theocracy does not have the right to murder people, right. And they're doing it in your name!  We must say out loud to the people in Iran: we stand with you. Be safe, but fight for Freedom! To the musicians in Iran: don't stop making music that matters! To the musicians all over the world: this is your battle also, [what they are doing] is supposed to stop you from being creative and saying what is important. This is to seed self-censorship out of fear. Don't let it happen! Free Toomaj! Free Toomaj!

Jim Fouratt speaking at the Iranian Mission to UN. Photo: special to the IEC

Miles Solay of the internationalist band Outernational was MC. His remarks repeatedly brought to life the danger to the revolutionary art and talented artist Toomaj that Iran is out to silence, and why it matters that we prevent that. He introduced the event with a vision for a different future so urgently needed in the world:

Why is this relevant, why is the freedom of Toomaj and all the political prisoners in Iran relevant to people in the United States and people all over the world? First of all we are human beings and the struggle of people against oppression anywhere in the world is ALL of our struggles. And the revolution that some of us here are standing for and are about is a revolution about getting rid of all oppression against all people everywhere. It's not a revolution like the Islamic Republic of Iran that says, "Hey, United States get out, we're the new oppressors," that cynically co-opts the struggle of the Palestinian people against genocide and occupation to promote their Dark Ages theocratic Islamic fundamentalism that oppresses half of humanity.

Miles introduced other speakers including Deirdre Stieglitz, Amnesty International USA board member (video); and actor Behzad. Miles read statements from Pulitzer Prize novelist Geraldine Brooks, PEN America (video), and feminist writer/scholar and activist Gayatri Spivak. A poem, “For Toomaj” by abortion rights leader Merle Hoffman, was also read (video).

Coast-to-Coast Solidarity Activities

There were secondary actions that took place on the West Coast on June 20:


In Berkeley, the IEC cosponsored, with Revolution Books, a showing of There Is No Evil, a powerful, award-winning film by acclaimed exiled Iranian director Mohammad Rasoulof, one of the artists the Islamic Republic of Iran (IRI) has attempted to suppress. He has consistently stood up to repression in word, film, and deed. When Toomaj was briefly released from the IRI’s prison in October, 2023, Rasoulof and another director met with Toomaj, lending their prominence to Toomaj and the need to free him. During his acceptance speech for an award at this year’s Cannes Film Festival, he called for the immediate release of Toomaj and other artists.

The IEC put up posters and handed out fliers around UC Berkeley. A few students came to the showing, along with several activists and a family of Iranians. There Is No Evil is a powerful exploration of the moral and ethical questions Iranian people are struggling with—of complicity vs resistance—as it impacts the hearts and minds of young soldiers and others charged with carrying out political executions, as well as its effects on loved ones and family. The film raises questions beyond Iran, to Palestine and Gaza, and to the great crimes of the U.S. itself: Is complicity and going along in silence acceptable? How do we put an end to all this? The film had a powerful effect on the audience, and people stayed afterward to talk about it, and learn more about the political prisoners, the IEC, the RevCom Corps and Revolution Summer. Substantial donations were raised, and one person volunteered to help get a screening of the film at a local theater.

Los Angeles

An informational vigil was held on a busy traffic corner of Hollywood’s famous Sunset Strip with flyers, a sound system blasting Toomaj’s rap songs, banners and large billboard signs about Toomaj, the Woman/Life/Freedom Uprising, and the “Need and Demand for a Better World.” IEC volunteers heard statements read out loud that were posted by some of the 200 signers of its statement to “Defend the Life of Rebel Rapper Toomaj Salehi,” including three who signed identifying as being from Bangladesh:

  • I stand with Toomaj and demand immediate release of him along with all other prisoners. Saying the truth is not a crime. Rather impede the voice of truth is a crime. So there is no fundamental basis to imprison him. I express my solidarity from Bangladesh. #Realease_Tomaj #Abolish_Iranian_Capitalist_Theocracy.
  • Free Tomaj. Long live revolution ✊
    Socialist Student Front, Bangladesh
  • Free Toomaj and other activists. End extremist state affairs in Iran

Around the World

Information is still coming in about conferences and protests in Canada and Europe, organized by other political forces. Coming on top of the June 9 program at Harlem’s Revolution Books, all this added to the atmosphere needed to free Iran’s political prisoners, as well as contribute to the broader debate and discussion about what kind of world we want to live in and what kind of people we want to be.