Lovers of justice and revolutionary art: Toomaj is talking to you. Make a difference and prevent his voice from being silenced by Iran’s theocrats. Toomaj endured repeated arrests, months of interrogation, torture, and solitary confinement. In August, he received a six-year sentence for “corruption on earth,” a charge that can carry the death penalty in Iran. He was released for 12 days and rearrested after posting the heartening and heartbreaking video excerpted above. Like so many other political prisoners in Iran such as Nobel Prize winner Narges Mohammadi, he is refusing to give in and give up.
This should inspire and challenge us all to have their back and follow their example to fight for a better world. This is a critical moment for such bravery in today’s world and as Iran’s reactionary regime is ramping up executions, targeting many political prisoners. This is an urgent call to poets, rappers, artists, writers and musicians to come together to defend the life of Toomaj Salehi, to demand his immediate release from prison, and the release of all the courageous political prisoners in Iran.
Toomaj is a people’s artist beloved by millions in Iran and worldwide – because he stands up for and with the people. He has taken an art form that he is said to have described as a “voice from the bottom of society,” and made it his own, carrying forward its spirit of “fight the power”. He sings to us in Farsi but his fiery lyrical poetry and raw emotions transcend the borders of geography and language. The resistance against oppression and hope for a better world comes through a pulsing beat that is the joy of rap music.
Aren’t we all sick to death of the vacant or putrid culture that degrades women, worships bling-bling, money, self, xenophobia, theism and other slavish nonsense? Shouldn’t we fight for something liberating such as to free an artist who is the opposite of all that? And one who is courageously putting his life on the line for something bigger than himself?!
He is hated by misogynist mullahs ruling Iran for good reason. He serenades the fight against the vile oppression of women, took part in the Women-Life-Freedom uprising in his art and his activism, concentrated in the battle over the forced hijab in Iran. He calls for unity of the ordinary people against the injustices visited upon the world’s nobodies whose lives are treated as “not worth the bullet that kills them” such as in the US-backed Israeli rain of death genocide in Gaza.
We are calling for a flowering of grassroots cultural activities to celebrate Toomaj’s inspiring music and example. We call on all touched by learning of his stand to FIND WAYS to express your rage against the ruthless persecution of this true people’s artist. Have a holiday house party and play/dance to his rap songs. Ask local bookstores to screen his many (English) captioned videos (see #FreeToomaj Resources page). Find a local music store to display videos of Toomaj in their stores. Find an art gallery to display posters of Iran’s political prisoners, of Toomaj, Narges and many others. Download the one page flyer from IEC website and pass it out (or post) at school, church, protests, community center, stores, cafes, and just everywhere. Take a picture of any of these actions and put it out on your social media and send it to the IEC to spread. Write us with your ideas and questions.
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