Iranian Rapper Sentenced to Death for Making Songs Critical of Regime

Toomaj Salehi
Toomaj Salehi Instagram

An Iranian court sentenced 33-year-old rapper Toomaj Salehi to death following his arrest over songs that criticized the government, his lawyer said Wednesday.

"The primary court sentenced Toomaj Salehi to the harshest punishment, death, on the charge of 'corruption on Earth,'" Salehi's lawyer, Amir Raesian, said in an interview with Iranian news outlet Shargh Daily.

Salehi Through His Music, Frequently Called Out Regime's Corruption, Suppression of Dissent

Salehi, who has been arrested multiple times by Iranian forces, frequently called out the regime's corruption and suppression of dissent in his music and shamed the regime's apologists who "whitewash" those crimes. He is one of the most prominent artists arrested by the Iranian regime over the past few years for his work.

In one popular song, "The Mouse Hole," Salehi addresses those who collaborate with the Islamic Republic, warning that they better find a place to hide as they will be punished soon for their wrongdoings.

"Corporate journalist, cheap informer, court artist, buy a mouse hole," the lyrics read. Despite being arrested and released in 2021 for releasing songs denouncing the government, Salehi continued to post music videos expressing his opposition to the Iranian regime.

Several Rap Stars Arrested Over Mahsa Amini Protests

In 2022, he voiced support for protests in Iran that were sparked by the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini who died in police custody after she was arrested for allegedly not complying with the country's hijab laws.

Iranian rap music has become a vehicle for criticism of the regime amid the protests, placing several rap stars in the crosshairs of the regime.

Despite the regime's crackdown, news of Salehi's sentence drew a wave of support from across the Iranian music world. Mehdi Yarrahi, an Iranian pop singer, described Salehi's sentence as a "black comedy" in a post on X. Yarrahi himself was arrested last August by the Islamic Republic for his songs in support of the Mahsa Amini protests.

The sentence by the Islamic Republic Revolution Court of Isfahan contradicted an Iranian Supreme Court ruling that said Salehi's case qualified for amnesty, Raesian said. The lawyer criticized the "obvious legal conflicts" in the revolutionary court's decision. "We will definitely appeal this sentence," he added.