Campaign

Update

December 1, 2023

Toomaj Salehi Rearrested for “Disturbing Public Opinion”!

Condemn and Protest Iran’s Ruthless Persecution of this People’s Artist!

December 1, 2023

Updated: On December 3, Toomaj was transferred to the general population of Isfahan Central (Dastgerd) Prison. His life remains in serious danger.

On November 30, the popular rapper Toomaj Salehi and two companions were suddenly accosted on the street in Babol, Iran. The attackers, who had no identification or warrants, brutally beat them with the butts of Kalashnikov rifles and dragged them off, according to Toomaj’s official X account and his lawyer.

Toomaj had been out of prison pending appeal of his sham trial for only 12 days. Three days before this renewed assault by the theocratic thugs, he had posted an emotional and lengthy video thanking his supporters for their tireless struggle to free not just him but other political prisoners.

Also see recent article: "Lovers of justice and revolutionary art: Toomaj is talking to you.  Make a difference".

Updated: On December 3, Toomaj was transferred to the general population of Isfahan Central (Dastgerd) Prison. His life remains in serious danger.

On November 30, the popular rapper Toomaj Salehi and two companions were suddenly accosted on the street in Babol, Iran. The attackers, who had no identification or warrants, brutally beat them with the butts of Kalashnikov rifles and dragged them off, according to Toomaj’s official X account and his lawyer.

Toomaj had been out of prison pending appeal of his sham trial for only 12 days. Three days before this renewed assault by the theocratic thugs, he had posted an emotional and lengthy video thanking his supporters for their tireless struggle to free not just him but other political prisoners.

Also see recent article: "Lovers of justice and revolutionary art: Toomaj is talking to you.  Make a difference".

Iran judiciary’s Mizan news agency stated that Toomaj was arrested and accused of “publishing false information and disturbing public opinion”. The “false information”, according to his lawyer, refers to Toomaj’s formal lawsuit against the security institution for torture. In his recent video, Toomaj detailed the torture which broke his hands and leg, including the injection of a drug into his neck, which other political prisoners told him was likely adrenaline. This is supposed to prevent him from passing out, so he continues to experience pain from the torture! What kind of a sadistic regime –so-called holy religious men– would do this to ANY human being? Toomaj still suffers pain from the broken bones due to the torture, so there is actual medical proof they had done this to him.

On the accusation of “disturbing public opinion”, it is hard to find a charge more self-exposing on the part of Iran’s officialdom. What kind of an idiotic legal charge is this in a court of law? This is a regime who holds on to power through draconian repression amid recurring outbreaks of massive protests, with a much-hated Islamic fundamentalist, fanatical social base. Their legitimacy was shaken though not yet shattered by the unprecedented Women, Life, Freedom uprising. Toomaj’s real offense is that he fiercely supported this great uprising in his art as well as on the streets. The Islamic Republic of Iran has been posing as supposedly anti-Zionist and anti-imperialist (US/NATO only, not China or Russia). They are vulnerable to public opinion beng disturbed inside and outside of Iran in having their legitimacy questioned or weakened. And when public figures with millions of followers like Toomaj broadcast to the world the dirty secrets of what goes on behind the “hijab curtain” and its prison walls, it disturbs their legitimacy and must be crushed. So: YES – JOIN IN DISTURBING THE PUBLIC OPINION and get Toomaj’s stand and his music out into the world!

Make use of the IEC’s Toomaj resource page at bit.ly/FreeToomaj. Download one-page flyer to distribute.

Much Love and Support for Toomaj as a Determined Resister to Oppression

During his brief time out of prison, Toomaj was photographed meeting with other resisters, including other artists who have been imprisoned. He was photographed with journalist Sepideh Rashno (without a hijab), whose arrest and torture for opposing compulsory hijab while on public transport went viral in 2022. He was also greeted by world-renowned film directors Jafar Panahi and Mohammad Rasoulof, both of whom have been imprisoned several times for speaking out against repression. This was a courageous act on the part of everyone involved, as they all still have court cases hanging over their heads. Social media was ablaze for days with celebratory posts that “Toomaj is free” and now with news of his rearrest.

Nov. 25, flanked by world-renowned Iranian filmmakers Mohammad Rasoulof and Jafar Panahi. Posted by @Jafar.Panahi
Nov 25, Toomaj and Sepideh Rashno. Photo: social media

Toomaj’s YouTube video brings to life the crucial importance of the struggle to free all political prisoners. In the following excerpt, translated by IEC volunteers, he says:

First and foremost, I want to thank you because of your spirit of being supportive, not just of me but of whomever needed support. You did not deny them in this process and showed your unity, solidarity, such that I had never experienced in the past, because you did not get tired… You did not forget those who are still in prison…
Even when I was in captivity at the security section, where it is almost impossible to talk to your relatives, because visits are very short and the guards are right next to you, where you cannot talk about whatever you want to talk about, even there a little news of the support you are giving to me and others was very, very welcoming and heartening news, and was giving us a new energy. Otherwise, it would have been impossible to endure these psychological injuries …
First you saved my life, and in the previous arrest you saved me, this is the third time that you rescued me. On social media they call me a hero, but the hero is all of you who saved me and us, I have never rescued anyone.
Now that they could not hold me in prison, as in previous times they try to destroy my reputation through some accusations…that I have confessed and betrayed others. First and foremost, what is there to confess, whatever I have done is in…broadcasting my songs and words, there has been nothing there to hide. I did not come out with a rap [song] to accommodate them; none of the people who have helped me with the production of my raps have been arrested or had to endure hardship, whether the producer, musicians, distributors and promoters.
And about confession? I didn't even give them access to my post/page… The last day [before his release] they took me to Mr. Barati for 4 or 5 hours… he was the one in charge, who ordered to apply torture to me. He wanted me to give them my page [i.e., access to Toomaj’s social media platforms]. I told them I would rather stay in jail than give you control of my page.

In this video, he firmly debunked dangerous rumors spread by the regime’s media that his sentence was reduced or he was released due to his co-operating with his captors, “confessing” or “naming names.” The regime commonly broadcasts taped “confessions” or “apologies” from prisoners on national TV to demoralize people. In Toomaj’s case, even a 9-hour taped torture interrogation did not get him to apologize to the state, so they resorted to splicing pieces for a false, doctored “apology”.

Read the rest of excerpt here.

A Word to the Defenders of Islamic Fundamentalists as (Fake) Anti-imperialists

Toomaj and all of Iran’s political prisoners are making a real contribution to the struggle for a better world and must be supported and freed. They are shining a light on the reality that Iran is NOT a model of the kind of society we want to live in but a thoroughly oppressive regime. Many who claim to, or even do, oppose US imperialism have refused to join the IEC, even accusing us of “helping the U.S.” for our exposing the Islamic Republic and its vicious repression of political dissidents like Toomaj. Some of these are the same “leftists” who were starkly missing at the many Women, Life, Freedom protests in the US, and are now cheerleading for Hamas.

A social media post during the uprising illuminates this important ideological battle now raging around us over US-supported genocide by Israel in Gaza (transcript of video post by IEC):

My name is Rasha Hilwi, I am Palestinian. From a young age I have been told that Iran stands with my people and strives for my freedom. Today I see courageous women as well as men stand in the streets of Iran to demand their freedom, dignity and human rights. A government that kills its own people cannot help to liberate any other people. To Jina, and all other women and men who gave their lives in the past days, and all who still fight I want to say, I am with you, and against the government of the Islamic Republic of Iran.

Video caption: To all my Palestinian friends,
I am sharing this statement in support for women and men that are fighting in the streets of Iran against the Islamic Republic of Iran after the killing of Jina/Mahsa Amini. The Iranian government claims that it strives for our freedom as Palestinians, but we know that a regime that kills its own people, oppresses its own women, can’t help liberate our people, us. So, it’s time to say it out loud to our sisters and brothers in the streets of Iran: We Stand With You. I will share the text in the first comment, if you want to record it, please share it with the following hashtags:
#PalestiniansForIranians #mahsaamini

This is right and righteous stand and as our Emergency Appeal makes clear:

All of Iran's political prisoners must be unconditionally and immediately released. The governments of the U.S. and Iran act from their national interests. And, in this instance, we the people of the U.S. and Iran, along with the people of the world, have OUR shared interests, as part of getting to a better world: to unite to defend the political prisoners of Iran. In the U.S., we have a special responsibility to unite very broadly against this vile repression by the IRI, and to actively oppose any war moves by the U.S. government that would bring even more unbearable suffering to the people of Iran. 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!

Burn The Cage: “Fighting for the freedom of political prisoners is a step towards the overthrow of the Islamic Republic”

Screenshot from Toomaj’s YouTube video

Editor’s Note: Immediately after the news of Toomaj’s rearrest, Burn the Cage posted on Instagram this screenshot and the following text, translated to English by IEC volunteers.

By kidnapping Toomaj Salehi and other political prisoners, torturing them in prolonged solitary prison cells and then holding kangaroo court trials, the Islamic Republic proved that it is a regime that lacks any due process and its survival relies absolutely on the suppression of its opponents.

The case of Toomaj Salehi, the accusations and the process that it went through is a sharp example of the fascist and religious (theocratic) criminal and judicial system of the Islamic Republic. It has been based on the inquisition and suppression and execution of its opponents since the first day of the establishment of its regime. A line connects the killings of political prisoners in the 80s…to the killings of 2017 and 2019 and the uprising of 2022, to the suppression of political prisoners under the current situation.

We want massive and nationwide unity [in Iran] around the "immediate release of all political prisoners" to break open prisons. This is an urgent and liberating need for our entire society. Fighting for the freedom of political prisoners is a step towards the overthrow of the Islamic Republic. The Islamic Republic suppresses fighters, women, artists, teachers, lawyers, workers, students, etc.

And imprisoning them not only seeks to push back the current struggles, but also seeks to fuel fear and despair in future struggles. We defend Toomaj and all political prisoners with all our might, and we consider their defense the duty of anyone who wants to be with the women protesting against the compulsory hijab, the people of the recent uprisings, justice-seeking lawyers, the masses and intellectuals of the oppressed nations, protesting intellectuals, exploited and oppressed workers, scientists and environmental activists, justice-seeking families of passengers killed by the downing the Ukrainian plane [752] and thousands of other protesters.

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