Revolution Books NYC - Emergency Program to Stop the Execution of Toomaj Salehi

Free Iran's Political Prisoners

IEC Event

June 9, 2024

This report from Revolution Books about the Emergency Program to Stop the Execution of Toomaj was originally posted at Because this is relevant to our readers and the Campaign, we are reposting excerpts of the report here.

On Sunday, June 9, a diverse audience gathered for an emergency program at Revolution Books. People came in solidarity with Toomaj Salehi and other political prisoners in Iran. People came in solidarity with Toomaj Salehi, the Iranian rapper who was arrested for his songs and participation in the “Woman, Life, Freedom” uprising that shook Iranian society in 2022-23.

On April 24, Toomaj was sentenced to death by hanging. The execution could be carried out at any time. So, as the program host Miles Solay of the revolutionary rock band Outernational emphasized, there is tremendous urgency to this case and to the cause of freeing all Iranian political prisoners. And uniting broadly with people from different perspectives to stop this execution. People at the program learned of the events leading up to the execution order.

In September 2022, tens of thousands of women had taken to the streets in protest of the mandatory hijab (required scarf that must be worn in public covering women's hair and neck). Mahsa (Jina) Amini, a 22-year-old woman, had been arrested for not complying with this humiliating law. She died in police custody. Clearly, this was an act of murder. And it sparked the wave of protests by women, joined by men and people from all walks of life, that grew into the most serious threat to the Iranian regime since the 1980s. Hundreds of protesters were killed by the government and thousands were arrested.

Toomaj Salehi, a hugely popular, beloved rebel rap artist, has courageously stood against the brutally oppressive, woman-hating theocracy of the Islamic Republic of Iran that bases itself on enslaving Islamic tradition and law. He threw himself into this battle—with defiant songs and videos, and activism in the streets.

A point of orientation of the International Emergency Campaign to Free Iran's Political Prisoners Now, and a theme of the emergency program, is that it is right and necessary to stand against the oppressive regime that rules Iran. At the same time, it is right and necessary to loudly call out and firmly oppose any and all attempts by U.S. imperialism, the greatest oppressor in the world, to meddle in Iran, to attack Iran, and tighten its sanctions against Iran that have already cost the lives of thousands of Iranians.

Toomaj's Art, the Oppression of Women, and Fighting for Real Liberation

At the solidarity program, people got to experience some of Toomaj's rap videos (see playlist of English-subtitled videos here). Miles spoke of the power, courage, and conviction of Toomaj's work, Toomaj's incredible artistry and heart for ending oppression, and how all this stands in sharp contrast to the degrading art that saturates our culture.

Mona Roshan, an Iranian revolutionary communist who had been arrested in the 1980s by the regime, described her horrifying experiences in prison (where she had given birth to her first child). She spoke of the intensifying repression directed against women following the recent uprising. She took people back to the critical role that women have played in battling this regime—and how today the oppression of women is a critical faultline for the revolution needed in Iran, and around the world, and that needs to be guided by the new communism developed by Bob Avakian.

Mona also spoke about how the oppressive veiling of women and other assertions of Islamic theocratic-patriarchal rule were promoted by the reactionary fundamentalist forces who ultimately seized leadership of the Iranian revolution in 1979. This was done in the name of Iran “breaking free” of Western domination and influences—and justified by some progressive and leftist forces as blows against Western cultural imperialism. In other words, a brutal oppression was “veiled” as liberation! Today some of the same kinds of thinking can be found among those who won’t stand up for Toomaj because they say that Iran is opposing the U.S. and Israel in Gaza, and therefore must not be criticized. But oppression is oppression and must be opposed. (Read the text of Mona Roshan’s talk.)

Raymond Lotta, spokesperson for Revolution Books in NYC and an advocate for the new communism, talked about how the battle to stop the execution of Toomaj and free Iran's political prisoners expresses our internationalism and internationalist responsibilities—recognizing that the whole world comes first. We are facing a worldwide system of exploitation and oppression. Our choices in the world today are not between U.S./Western imperialism and its apartheid outpost Israel vs. “dark ages” Islamic fundamentalism. No, a whole other way, a radically different and far better world is possible... through an all-the-way revolution. The political prisoners in Iran waging heroic struggle are our brothers and sisters. And taking up the battle to free Iran's political prisoners and raising the awareness of people in the U.S. and everywhere advances the cause of emancipating all of humanity.

Diverse Voices of Solidarity

Deirdre Stieglitz, a member of the board of Amnesty International (AI), spoke of the work of AI in demanding Toomaj's freedom. A number of individuals and organizations of different perspectives who were not able to attend expressed their solidarity with the battle to stop the execution of Toomaj by sending messages. (See excerpts of messages in side bar.)

Stepping Up the Fight

On the spot, several people, including one young woman who had just learned about Toomaj and the cause of freeing Iran's political prisoners, made solidarity videos. It was also announced that a protest will be held at the Iranian mission to the United Nations on June 20. This is part of days of global action sponsored by the International Emergency Campaign to Free Iran's Political Prisoners Now to stop the execution of Toomaj and free all Iran's political prisoners. Activities by different groups will be taking place in Canada, Europe, and Colombia.

Video of the Revolution Books program can be watched HERE.


IG post by Revolution Books NYC

Statements of Solidarity with Emergency Program

–From the statement sent by Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist Geraldine Brooks: “Toomaj is an example of the greatness of Iranian artists who, at immense sacrifice to themselves, have stayed in their homeland to fight for the heart and soul of their culture....”

–From the statement sent by PEN America that advocates for rights of expression and dissent of writers and artists: “Artists like Salehi, who use their music and creativity to express dissent against draconian and unjust measures by authoritarian regimes, must be safeguarded...”

–From the statement sent by Gayatri Spivak, literary theorist, feminist scholar and activist: “I am with you shoulder to shoulder raising my voice against the execution of Toomaj Salehi. Not only because he has spoken and sung against injustice, taking risks for the rights of humanity, but also because we must not kill.”

–Abortion rights activist and writer Merle Hoffman wrote a poem specially for the program about Mahsa (Jina) Amini.