May 6, 2024

Mobilizations Worldwide Demand NO Execution and Free Toomaj Salehi

May 6, 2024
Screenshot of Toomaj from Mehdoone Jange (Battlefield) video. Click to watch.  
Here is the battlefield, whatever color you are. Come. Something is missing without you…. Don’t call us [just] rebels. We came for revolution.…We come into the streets like ghosts and become a nightmare for government, We see the light after this hell. Neither suppression, nor laws nor gallows can stop us.—Lyrics from Mehdoone Jange (Battlefield), by Toomaj Salehi[1]
Screenshot of Toomaj from Mehdoone Jange (Battlefield) video. Click to watch.  
Here is the battlefield, whatever color you are. Come. Something is missing without you…. Don’t call us [just] rebels. We came for revolution.…We come into the streets like ghosts and become a nightmare for government, We see the light after this hell. Neither suppression, nor laws nor gallows can stop us.—Lyrics from Mehdoone Jange (Battlefield), by Toomaj Salehi[1]

Actions to defend the life of Iran’s rebel rapper Toomaj Salehi have erupted around the world since April 24, when Iran’s theocrats sentenced the beloved rebel rapper to execution by hanging. From numerous courageous actions in Iran, to marches in cities worldwide that drew many thousands from the Iranian Diaspora, to artists and arts organizations in many countries publicly issuing statements and calling for action against his execution, people have responded to this threat to Toomaj’s life. Some rappers and other musicians among the youth of many countries, including the U.S., have begun to see Toomaj as their own, with some dedicating performances to Toomaj.

That tens of thousands have mobilized in just a week is testimony to how much Toomaj is loved, and what he represents—and importantly, to the urgency to do much more in the coming days. Prison authorities have prohibited all contact with Toomaj from lawyers or family, even confiscating the phone cards of his wardmates. This is happening as Iran’s Islamic Republic has ratcheted up its execution machine, hanging 63 in the last two weeks of April—one every five hours. And it is only days until the May 13 deadline for filing an appeal of the verdict, after which the IRI could expedite execution.

The videos and accounts below give an initial and partial glimpse of the unfolding fight to Free Toomaj. The videos and links below can also be viewed on the IEC website’s FreeToomaj page.

Broad and Brave Actions Inside Iran

In Iran, where merely distributing flyers or spraying graffiti can bring long prison terms or brutality at the hands of police and paramilitary forces, a wave of resistance—especially among the youth—has taken shape. Many posts on social media show youth walking through traffic with posters of Toomaj held high, or graffiti appearing on walls in many cities, or leaflets passing from hand to hand and put on car windshields. At social gatherings and protests, people took up chants to “free Toomaj,” including the crowd at a soccer game and retirees at a pension protest in the ethnic-Arab city of Ahwaz. A student organization in Isfahan posts on Instagram videos of nightly chants at a set hour that echo from building to building. Two university students were reportedly arrested for sitting in at the music hall.

People from across sections of society have issued collective demands and statements. “We consider it our moral and human duty to continue our strike and protest to remove the noose from the necks of Toomaj and all the nameless prisoners who do not have Toomaj’s fame, but like him have been sentenced to death in violation of their fundamental rights,” reads part of a statement from ten prisoners in Ghezal Hezar Prison who organized a weekly Tuesday hunger strike against executions. Fourteen political prisoners signed a statement from Tehran’s notorious Evin prison. Statements of condemnation came from a wide cross section of society: 460 Iran-Iraq war veterans and their families; 70 Kurdish families, the parents of Jina Mahsa Amini, and other family members of protesters executed or killed, including the Mothers of Laleh Park (Mourning Mothers), organizations of musicians, teachers, writers and others.

300+ Iranian musicians signed a statement for Toomaj. Graphic: Center for Human Rights in Iran on X

Outrage on the International Stage

News about Toomaj’s sentence got out very widely in the U.S. entertainment industry, with a statement from the Grammy Recording Academy, articles in Rolling Stone, Variety, XXL, Deadline, IMDB, and a few hip hop podcasts and shows. Hip hop artist/activist Meek Mill tweeted to his 11 million followers, and hip hop entrepreneur Kevin Liles posted on Instagram, “Hip-hop isn’t just under attack in America. The criminalization of our music and culture is global, and we need to stand up together.”

Author-playwright Ariel Dorfman joined many others in signing the IEC’s call to “Defend the Life of Rebel Rapper Toomaj Salehi,” and sent the IEC a verse for Toomaj that said in part,

To the Court that has condemned Toomaj to death, I say:
Think deeply about what you are doing and reverse your sentence.
I say: think deeply about how you believe you are killing his songs and
giving them more light, more eternity, and reverse your sentence.

48 prominent artists and intellectuals initiated a collective Op-Ed in France’s newspaper of record, LeMonde, demanding that France’s president Macron act to stop Toomaj’s execution. The op-ed included Academy Award winning illustrator Marjane Sartrapi and actresses Catherine DeNeuve and Golshifteh Farahani. Scores more quickly signed on. Dozens of other prominent figures are speaking out on social media, or in collective statements, such as signers of the IEC’s Emergency Appeal Cornel West and Shirin Ebadi (Nobel Peace Prize laureate). Cornel West issued an urgent statement on Instagram that read: I strongly condemned the death sentence for my brother Toomaj Salehi—a hip hop artist telling the truth about the repression in Iran! We must be morally consistent in our prophetic witness!”

A growing number of musicians are bringing Toomaj to their audiences across borders, including Italian singers-songwriters Tananai and Ermal Meta, Afghan musician Shekib Mosadeq, and Miles Solay from the band Outernational. Others are issuing Toomaj tribute videos and pulling together multi-artist performances.

International Marches and Actions

Demonstrations to protest Toomaj’s execution called by Iranians in the Diaspora, were held in many cities worldwide the weekend of April 27-28. Toomaj contingents also joined May 1 marches in many cities. Thousands marched in Toronto, Canada and Paris, France; hundreds in San Francisco and Los Angeles, California and in several cities in Germany, Italy and Australia. There were also many smaller marches or rallies in other countries.

Especially inspiring were the actions taken by activists and revolutionaries of Quemar La Jaula in Colombia, South America. People plastered posters on walls in the city of Cali, passed out flyers and held conversations with people on the street about the importance of defending an artist who speaks a different language and lives halfway across the planet.

A contingent of Quemar La Jaula supporters joined the May 1 revolutionary marches called by @Comrevco in several cities, including Bogotá and Cartagena.

In a message to the IEC from activists and revolutionaries in Colombia, they wrote:

Toomaj and the Iranian fighters are our people. The voice of Toomaj is our voice against the reactionaries, against the brutal system. The world needs to know about the courageous fighters in Iran, USA and Colombia and so on. We need a real different new world, and for that, we must defend the people who fight against this capitalist-imperialist system in every corner of the world.

Imperialists & Flunkies Cry Crocodile Tears

The U.S. National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan was quick to condemn the IRI’s execution verdict… as if that would make people forget the constant scenes of U.S. police beating and arresting university students who were peacefully protesting a U.S.-sponsored and financed Zionist genocide in Gaza. Meanwhile, pro-U.S./Israel reactionaries like “Prince” Reza Pahlavi, son of the deposed U.S. puppet Shah of Iran, and U.S. mouthpieces like Masih Alinejad were also in permanent tweet mode about Toomaj—working to exploit the situation for their U.S. imperialist masters. This is while Iran’s theocrats are working to exploit the campus protests in the U.S. for themselves—running numerous official news articles in support of “freedom of expression” of the students even as they plan to execute a world-class rapper for the same! All this highlights why we say both Iran’s regime and the U.S. imperialist are reactionaries. There is continuing importance to popularizing the IEC’s demands on freeing ALL of Iran’s political prisoners with urgency: We demand of the Islamic Republic of Iran: FREE ALL POLITICAL PRISONERS NOW! We say to the U.S government: NO THREATS OR WAR MOVES AGAINST IRAN, LIFT U.S. SANCTIONS!

Continue to sign and share our statement for Toomaj. In addition to issuing and signing statements, some suggestions for what you can do now may include:

*Get Toomaj’s songs played on the radio and at pro-Palestine encampments. (See Toomaj’s videos with English subtitles on the IEC website.)

*Make a group video to post (cc to the IEC) with your colleagues modeled after

*For those with the reach, social stature, and resources, consider organizing a global, online emergency town hall, panel, and concert with prominent artists and activists.


[1] Watch our playlist with this and other Toomaj music videos subtitled in English on

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