Rhythm & Repression: Inside the Secret Trial of an Iranian Rapper

Several Iranian lawyers, activists, and ordinary citizens aired their concerns over the condition of rapper Toomaj Salehi, an Iranian rapper who opposes the Islamic Republic. The 33-year-old dissident musician and metalworker from Esfahan was recently put on a secret trial by authorities after his arrest last October 30, 2022.

Speaking to the news website Iran International on June 25th, Iranian lawyer Pegah Banihashemi said, "Salehi has been detained for more than 230 days, and a few days ago, his trial was held behind closed doors. Considering that there are reports about his beating, the US government has announced that it will monitor his case."

An Iranian political activist, Milad Rasaimanesh, said, "the more famous people inform about the case of Toomaj Salehi, the better the situation will be for him.

Shirin Ebadi, another Iranian lawyer and winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, wrote about Toomaj’s judicial process, saying that he was denied the right to have a lawyer of his choice.

Iranians continued their protests against Toomaj’s arrest and imprisonment, chanting slogans and putting up posters of him in several cities nationwide. Outside Iran, the diaspora also organized demonstrations across Europe and the Americas in recent months to support Toomaj and other political prisoners.

But it’s not just Iranians who showed their worries about Toomaj’s condition. On June 22nd, representatives from the legislatures of Germany, Austria, New Zealand, and Italy, who were also Toomaj’s political sponsors, announced that the singer’s court proceedings were held for 230 days without official notice or media coverage.

Three members of the German, Austrian, and Italian parliaments also demanded access to Toomaj’s court files.

"We are very concerned. There is no transparency at all. We don't know anything: Not how the court date went. Not when the next court date will be. Not when the verdict will be announced," Ye-One Rhie, a German-Korean member of the Bundestag, Germany’s parliament, posted on Twitter.

"We demand direct access to Toomaj himself. We demand access to all court files.” She added.

Salehi gained fame for his protest songs about social issues and injustices committed by the Iranian government. In one of his politically charged songs, titled “Buy a Rat Hole,” released in 2021, he spoke about poverty, injustice, repression, corruption, and impunity within the government.

He was arrested shortly after his interview with the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC), where Salehi said, "you are dealing with a mafia that is ready to kill the entire nation... in order to keep its power, money, and weapons.

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