Rapper who protested over death of Mahsa Amini faces execution in Iran

UN calls for international action as regime announces public trials for protesters and Iranian lawmakers seek harsh punishment

Three weeks after he was violently arrested at his home by Iran’s security forces, Saman Yasin, a young Kurdish artist and rapper, is facing execution. He has been charged with waging war against God after posting his support for anti-regime protesters on social media.

His fate, which will be decided in the coming days by the Iranian courts, could be shared by thousands of other young protesters being held in detention as human rights organisations warn that the regime may unleash a bloody campaign of revenge in an attempt to quash continuing protests.

According to the UN, an estimated 14,000 people, including children, have been detained by the regime since the protests began more than eight weeks ago, after the 22-year-old Mahsa Amini died in custody having been arrested by Iran’s morality police.

“Over the past six weeks, thousands of men, women and children – by some accounts over 14,000 persons – have been arrested, which includes human rights defenders, students, lawyers, journalists and civil society activists,” said Javaid Rehman, the special rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Iran, on Wednesday.

“In another most disturbing development, Iranian authorities have announced earlier this week that they will be holding public trials for over 1,000 arrested persons in Tehran and a similar number outside the capital … The charges against these persons will include charges … carrying the death penalty. In the absence of any domestic channels of accountability, I would stress the significance of the role and responsibility of the international community in addressing impunity for human right violations in Iran.”

On 6 November, 227 Iranian lawmakers urged the judiciary to “deal decisively with the perpetrators of these crimes and with all those who assisted in the crimes and provoked rioters”, which human rights activists fear will lead to a wave of executions and life sentences handed down by the courts in the coming weeks. The authorities have announced they plan to hold trials for 1,000 protesters held in Tehran.

The Hengaw Organization for Human Rights said that high-profile prisoners like Yasin could be used by the Iranian regime to attempt to terrify those who continue to protest.

Yasin, a well-known and acclaimed artist and rapper, has been a vocal critic of the regime. He wrote messages of support for protesters on his social media channels and has written several protest songs.

“We know the government easily kills people and directly sentences the detainees to death,” said Soma Rostami of Hengaw. “Saman Yasin is in serious danger and we should be his voice.”

Other human rights organisations say the authorities have attempted to silence Yasin’s family, who have not been heard from since he was charged with moharabeh (enmity against God) earlier this week.

The death sentence hanging over Yasin comes amid claims that he and other protesters are being subjected to torture in detention.

Family members of Toomaj Salehi, a 32-year-old musician and rapper, who is also in detention after being arrested on 30 September with two friends, claim that he has been subjected to “severe torture” at the hands of the regime for releasing songs in support of protesters and posting pictures of him chanting slogans against the security forces in Isfahan.

A protest against the arrest of the Iranian rapper Toomaj Salehi
A protest at the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin against the arrest of the well-known Iranian rapper Toomaj Salehi. Photograph: snapshot-photography/F Boillot/Rex/Shutterstock

The popular artist’s arrest has led to petitions online calling for his release and his supporters have widely shared the hashtag #FreeToomaj.

“When we heard about his arrest, we were devastated but not defeated. We are currently trying to do what we can to carry on what he stood for and urge the international community’s leaders to hold the Islamic Republic accountable for their crimes against humanity, to release Toomaj and all Iranian people who are imprisoned and tortured on a daily basis, all because they seek freedom,” said one of Salehi’s friends, who is not being named for security reasons.

“We know they want to traumatise us even more and instil fear in us. What matters is that the Islamic Republic’s brutal regime is arresting critics and innocent civilians and violating their own laws,” she said.

“Even if the lawyers arrive at the courts on behalf of their families, they, too, are at risk of getting arrested. We have no information about his health, what he has been accused of, or what his condition his health is in, and we are seriously worried for his life.”

Last week two female journalists who helped break the story of the death of Mahsa Amini were denounced as CIA spies by the Iranian authorities, a charge that carries the death penalty.


Deepa Parent and Ghoncheh Habibiazad

The GuardianTramp

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