Metal fans from across the world have been campaigning for the release of two members of the thrash/groove/nu metal band Confess, who were arrested in Iran last year and are now likely to face execution. The duo is being tried for a range of offences; including the playing of heavy metal, producing satanic music, owning an independent record label as well as corresponding with the West.
Metal Nation Radio was the first to report on the arrests of musicians Khosravi Arash Ilkhani and Nikan Siyanor Khosravi, after receiving an anonymous message from a ‘close and old friend of the guys’, who claimed to be the administrator of Confess’ official Facebook page. Apparently, the messenger sought help from Metal Nation Radio with the knowledge that the website’s chief executive director Trev McKendry was a good friend of Khosravi’s.
“He really needs you now by [sharing] it, post[ing] it and [talking about] it in the network and your radio shows and your co-workers and friends,” the message read. “We … need your help.”
The message, as mentioned by Metal Nation Radio, was written in broken English and appeared to have been translated to the best of the messenger’s ability. The messenger elaborated that 21-year-old Ilkhani and 23-year-old Khosravi were arrested on November 10, 2015 by the intelligence wing of Sepah-e-Pasdaran –also known as the Army of the Guardians of the Islamic Revolution– after the release of their latest album titled ‘In Pursuit of Dreams’ a month earlier. The album includes tracks such as ‘I’m Your God Now’ and ‘Teh-Hell-Ran’.
After being held in solitary confinement at Tehran’s notorious Evin Prison until February 5 this year, both Ilkhani and Khosravi were released upon paying a whopping $30,000. However, the duo is still not out of the woods, as they await trial for the litany of charges that have been brought against them.
The same month that they were arrested, over 170 others were taken in by Iran’s Revolutionary Guard. While five of those happen to be journalists from Tehran, it is not clear if Ilkhani and Khosravi were among those arrested that day.
Hadi Ghaemi, executive director of International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran, described the arrests as abductions after the judiciary said that it knew nothing about any one of them.
“People are transferred to unknown locations, without oversight by the Judiciary, and if the Judiciary disavows knowledge of it, that means the Guards are arresting people without judicial warrants,” he said.
According to the duo’s friend, who reached out to Metal Nation Radio, Ilkhani and Khosravi had been arrested in accusation of [blasphemy]; form[ing] and running an [illegal] and underground band and record label in the satanic 'Metal & Rock' music style; writing anti-religion, atheistic, political and anarchistic lyrics; advertising against the system and [conducting] interview[s] with [forbidden] [foreign] radio stations. The messenger also said that all personal and work-related emails as well as Facebook posts of Confess and its members were under the government’s scanner. If found guilty, Ilkhani and Khosravi could face a minimum of six months and a maximum of six years of imprisonment along with lashing, as majority of the charges that have been leveled against them happen to be forbidden in Iran. Worse still, if the duo is found guilty of blasphemy, they could face the death penalty.
Tara Sepehri Far, a researcher for Human Rights Watch, said it is likely that the duo would be found guilty of having insulted sacred beliefs and face up to five years in prison, as opposed to other musicians, who have been sentenced to death for insulting Prophet Mohammad in the past.
“Iranian musicians, especially the ones who play non-classical western music, are navigating a minefield. Due to severe censorship, most of these groups are performing underground. Anything from the content of their lyrics to the style of the music they play might violate unwritten regulations that musicians are expected to adhere to by various authorities,” she added.
Social media accounts of those familiar with the metal band expressed concern about the duo’s plight. They included messages of support while demanding both Ilkhani and Khosravi be released alongside the hashtag #freeconfess. Family and friends of both the band members also launched a petition, calling for their immediate release. With close to 15,000 signatures so far, the petition continues to receive support from individuals, who believe that the musicians’ arrests are medieval and barbaric.
Iran’s Revolutionary Guard, which is known to throttle the creative freedom of artists and musicians to safeguard the country’s leadership from internal dissent, is part of the regime’s military and is responsible for enforcing a stringent Islamic code. Despite immense condemnation from human rights groups and the larger international community, Iran continues to carry out hundreds of public executions each year.
Photo Credits: Revolver Magazine