Campaign

Update

May 13, 2024

Amidst Theocrats’ Executions Rampage Global Outcry Grows: Free Toomaj and All Iran’s Political Prisoners

Executions Surge in Iran

May 13, 2024

As the deadline for an appeal of the death sentence of rebel rapper Toomaj Salehi looms,[1] Iran’s Islamic Republic (IRI) continues a surge in executions with a reported 40 prisoners being executed by hanging in just the first 10 days of May. The World Coalition against the Death Penalty estimates there are 5,000 prisoners “currently under the death sentence” for various offenses under Iran’s draconian Sharia law. Weeks before the execution order for Toomaj, Amnesty International alerted:

Graphic: Iran HRM

The number of executions in 2023… marks a 48% increase from 2022 and a 172% increase from 2021. Iran’s killing spree is continuing into 2024.... Execution numbers recorded by Amnesty International are minimum figures and the organization believes the real number is higher.[2]

Many of the executions are for “drug-related” charges which are supposedly prohibited by international legal standards as these disproportionately consist of the poor and ethnic minorities, e.g., in Iran, the Baluch are about 5% of the population but are 20-30% of those executed in recent years.[3]

Yet the evidence indicates that the IRI is using executions as revenge against political dissidents including targeting the most beloved and defiant voices such as outstanding rap artist Toomaj. He is a representative and example of the uncompromising Woman, Life, Freedom uprising of and for women. The executions surge coincides with other ultra-repressive measures, such as the recent “Noor Plan” using police/vigilante violence, even using drones and facial recognition tools to demonize, brutalize and terrorize Iran’s women and their supporters.[4]

The historic Woman, Life, Freedom uprising (2022-2023) had won the support of millions around the world as it rocked all of society in Iran and set the misogynistic mullah regime back on its heels. The ever-intensifying repression since then serves to bolster the regime’s damaged legitimacy, to reassert social control and as warning against further resistance, especially among women and youth rebels. If the IRI gets away with an unopposed murder of Toomaj, it can open the floodgates to kill off many more (e.g., those lesser known). His execution order is in itself an outrage but also a live threat to all political prisoners there. A commensurate response to this is needed by the world’s lovers of justice, art and Iran’s heroic “best of the best” resisters who refuse to be victims and model prisoners.

Rising Resistance Faces Off with Execution Surge

There are many posts on social media of widespread graffiti by youth and others across Iran against the execution of Toomaj and against forced hijab. There are many forces, including political prisoners, issuing statements and protests by the Iranian Diaspora as we reported on last week.

Clockwise from top left: Toomaj Salehi, Mojahed Kourkour, Abbas Deris, Reza Resaei. These four are facing imminent execution stemming from their participation in protests in 2022 and 2019. Graphic: Posted on Burn the Cage IG and widely on social media

In several of Iran’s prisons, the courageous “no to executions” Black Tuesday weekly hunger strike is now into its 15th week. There have been protests of various sizes against execution, including one in Lordegan where a doctor held up a sign against executions of political prisoners and was jailed. Many took the opportunity of the widespread actions and concern about Toomaj to hold posters and spread information about him, but also other less well-known political prisoners on death row.

More than 100 figures from the worlds of music, culture and human rights activism—including Coldplay, Sting and Margaret Atwood—have signed an Index on Censorship statement calling for Toomaj’s immediate, unconditional release.

As the deadline for an appeal of the death sentence of rebel rapper Toomaj Salehi looms,[1] Iran’s Islamic Republic (IRI) continues a surge in executions with a reported 40 prisoners being executed by hanging in just the first 10 days of May. The World Coalition against the Death Penalty estimates there are 5,000 prisoners “currently under the death sentence” for various offenses under Iran’s draconian Sharia law. Weeks before the execution order for Toomaj, Amnesty International alerted:

Graphic: Iran HRM

The number of executions in 2023… marks a 48% increase from 2022 and a 172% increase from 2021. Iran’s killing spree is continuing into 2024.... Execution numbers recorded by Amnesty International are minimum figures and the organization believes the real number is higher.[2]

Many of the executions are for “drug-related” charges which are supposedly prohibited by international legal standards as these disproportionately consist of the poor and ethnic minorities, e.g., in Iran, the Baluch are about 5% of the population but are 20-30% of those executed in recent years.[3]

Yet the evidence indicates that the IRI is using executions as revenge against political dissidents including targeting the most beloved and defiant voices such as outstanding rap artist Toomaj. He is a representative and example of the uncompromising Woman, Life, Freedom uprising of and for women. The executions surge coincides with other ultra-repressive measures, such as the recent “Noor Plan” using police/vigilante violence, even using drones and facial recognition tools to demonize, brutalize and terrorize Iran’s women and their supporters.[4]

The historic Woman, Life, Freedom uprising (2022-2023) had won the support of millions around the world as it rocked all of society in Iran and set the misogynistic mullah regime back on its heels. The ever-intensifying repression since then serves to bolster the regime’s damaged legitimacy, to reassert social control and as warning against further resistance, especially among women and youth rebels. If the IRI gets away with an unopposed murder of Toomaj, it can open the floodgates to kill off many more (e.g., those lesser known). His execution order is in itself an outrage but also a live threat to all political prisoners there. A commensurate response to this is needed by the world’s lovers of justice, art and Iran’s heroic “best of the best” resisters who refuse to be victims and model prisoners.

Rising Resistance Faces Off with Execution Surge

There are many posts on social media of widespread graffiti by youth and others across Iran against the execution of Toomaj and against forced hijab. There are many forces, including political prisoners, issuing statements and protests by the Iranian Diaspora as we reported on last week.

Clockwise from top left: Toomaj Salehi, Mojahed Kourkour, Abbas Deris, Reza Resaei. These four are facing imminent execution stemming from their participation in protests in 2022 and 2019. Graphic: Posted on Burn the Cage IG and widely on social media

In several of Iran’s prisons, the courageous “no to executions” Black Tuesday weekly hunger strike is now into its 15th week. There have been protests of various sizes against execution, including one in Lordegan where a doctor held up a sign against executions of political prisoners and was jailed. Many took the opportunity of the widespread actions and concern about Toomaj to hold posters and spread information about him, but also other less well-known political prisoners on death row.

More than 100 figures from the worlds of music, culture and human rights activism—including Coldplay, Sting and Margaret Atwood—have signed an Index on Censorship statement calling for Toomaj’s immediate, unconditional release.

This has been echoed by many artists, activists and revolutionaries around the world, including on May Day 2024 and in viral posts of thousands on social media. Quemar La Jaula held a “Day of Culture for the Life of Rebel Rapper Toomaj Salehi” in Medellín, Colombia on May 11. They have been subtitling music videos in Spanish to bring Toomaj’s searing lyrics to the Spanish speaking audience.

All this is heightening the stakes for the IRI which has responded by doubling down on repression and executions. Last week, the IRI even confirmed the sentence of world-renowned film director Mohammad Rasoulof to 8 years in prison and flogging (whipping!) after he refused to withdraw his latest film from the 2024 Cannes Film Festival. It also arrested other rappers, Danial Moghaddam and Wafa Ahmadpour, holding them in solitary for posting a protest video “Be Ready.” The attacks on artists are part of suppressing a whole society’s ability to dream.

U.S. and Iran Are Both Gangsters but the U.S. Is the O.G.

In the context of the extremely fraught and dangerous situation in the Middle East, where the genocidal assault on Gaza escalates with Israel’s invasion of Rafah, a yet relatively small but growing number of voices inside Iran and in the Iranian Diaspora are fighting to link their struggle against the executions of Iran’s oppressive theocratic regime with the struggle to stop the U.S./Israeli genocide in Gaza. A statement from a group in the Iranian Diaspora @NoToExecutionCampaign, posted a call for Iranians broadly to stand against Israel’s genocide in Palestine, and for

…all liberators … to combine the protests of ‘no to execution’ and ‘no to Islamic Republic’ with ‘no to war’ so that both sides do not commit crimes against humanity, i.e., neither the Islamic Republic and its proxy groups in the region nor the Israeli criminal regime should take advantage of this strategic situation. (excerpted and translated by IEC volunteers)

Immediately upon learning of Toomaj’s execution order, our campaign jumped into the fray with our statement to Defend the life of Toomaj with its clarifying political demands.

Many of the IEC’s Emergency Appeal signers (e.g., Noam Chomsky, Raymond Lotta, etc.) are well versed in the original genocidal history of the U.S. and why the IEC demands are on point. Now, as the U.S. imperialists and IRI traffic in pointing fingers at each other’s crimes to score political points, it is at the expense of real lives of the people in Iran, Gaza and around the world as to who is the supposed “liberator.” The IEC statement makes clear that we—the people of the world—are the ones we must mobilize in our own interests to act now and not look to or rely on these oppressive regimes and their institutions or mouthpieces.

Over 100 people have signed on to the IEC statement on defending the life of Toomaj. This includes people or groups from Canada, Bangladesh, Germany, Italy, Belgium, Great Britain, Australia, South Africa, Malaysia, Colombia, Iceland, Ireland, and France. It includes individuals from organizations (for identification by individual signers only) like Veterans for Peace, MAWO-Mobilization Against War and Occupation (Canada), an Amnesty International chapter member in the U.S., Zanan Group of Northern California, The Dogdoge Collective (Bangladesh), Bangladesh Students Federation and Bangladesh Students Front. Some notable renowned voices of conscience include author/playwright Ariel Dorfman, Mothers of Khavaran’s Mansoureh Behkish and poets Farnaz Fatemi, Rafael J. Gonzalez and D.L. Lang, as well as Ron Jacobs (Counterpunch), Jamileh Davoudi (Journalist, and Zanan Group of Northern California), Jennifer Moore (University of New Mexico Law School), and Gregory "Joey" Johnson (flag burner and Revcom Corps).

We call on everyone to continue sharing our statement and urging others to sign it as part of advancing the struggle to defend Toomaj’s life in the coming tense days and to free ALL Iran’s political prisoners.

_______________

FOOTNOTES:

1. For details on the development of Toomaj’s case, see IEC’s #FreeToomaj Resource page.

2. Iran executes 853 people in eight-year high amid relentless repression and renewed ‘war on drugs’, Amnesty.org, April 4, 2024.  

3. Ibid.

4. Iran’s Theocrats Launch New Offensive in a War on Hijab-free Women amid Escalating War with Zionist Israel, FreeIransPoliticalPrisonersNow.org, April 24, 2024.

____________________________________________________________

 “Execute Us Instead of Toomaj,” say 500+ Veterans & Their Families in Iran

On May 1, 2024, a letter to Iran's regime was posted by hundreds of veterans of the 1980-1988 Iran-Iraq war. The signers included family members of soldiers who died in that war. The horrific suffering from this U.S.-funded war[5] is repeatedly cited by the Islamic Republic as a reason the population should sacrifice to support it—which makes this statement all the more damaging to them. Below is an excerpt translated by IEC volunteers of the Telegram post which continues to collect signatures, up to about 500 as of May 9 (translator additions in brackets, emphasis added).

A government that is responsible for poverty and inequality, corruption, inefficiency, unemployment, inflation, water and resource management crisis, air and soil pollution, brain drain and loss of human capital, and tens of crises and super-crises, sends the armed forces to the streets every day to intimidate and terrorize. Instead of the trial of the corrupt and the land-grabbers, we witness the disgraceful death sentence for a young protesting artist.
O rulers, come and execute us instead of Toomaj…..Empty the pepper spray on our faces, as we have a long history of inhaling mustard gas. Aim the bullets at us, as we have [experienced] Saddam’s shrapnel and arrows. Arrest us for keeping silent on all these atrocities and the desecration of our youth and girls. Finally, we warn you before it is too late to stop threatening and intimidating the youth and disturbing the public’s mind every day, do not lead the country to collapse.”

[5] In 1980, as part of a strategic approach to weakening the IRI, the U.S. gave Iraq’s Saddam Hussein a green light to invade Iran, and then worked to turn the Iran-Iraq War into an eight-year bloodbath. U.S. allies supplied Iraq with billions in weapons and material that Hussein turned into chemical weapons, which he used on Iranians as well as Iraqi Kurds. The U.S. also supplied Iran and played both sides against each other to prevent either from winning. When the war ended, an estimated one million Iraqis and Iranians had been killed. Larry Everest, Oil, Power & Empire: Iraq and the U.S. Global Agenda, Chapter 4—“Arming Iraq, Double-Dealing Death in the Gulf”  

Campaign Updates & Press Releases

December 18, 2022
Update
Week 13 of Iran Uprising:
October 10, 2022
Update
Iran Uprising Enters 4th Week:
June 1, 2022
Update
Save the Date: June 10
December 2, 2021
Press Release
Eyes of World on Iran as JPCOA Talks Resume
October 3, 2021
Update
Now Available Online – Watch
September 22, 2021
Update
UN Press Conference Photos and Video
September 17, 2021
Update
Heroism for Our Times

Prisoner News