Iran Sentences Rapper Toomaj Salehi to Death for “Anti-Hijab” Protest

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Iran Sentences Rapper Toomaj Salehi to Death for “Anti-Hijab” Protest

The Islamic Republic of Iran has sentenced popular Kurdish-Iranian rapper Toomaj Salehi to death for protesting against the dominant Muslim regime and spreading “propaganda” through his anti-government songs. The 33-year-old rapper, who has reportedly been tortured and kept in solitary confinement since his arrest in 2022, is now appealing the decision to a government pardoning committee in a bid to reduce the draconian sentence.

In September 2022, Iran’s “morality police” arrested a 22-year-old Kurdish woman named Mahsa Amini in a Tehran subway station, charging her with “improper hijab”
(AP Photo/Markus Schreiber, File)

In September 2022, Iran’s “morality police” arrested a 22-year-old Kurdish woman named Mahsa Amini in a Tehran subway station, charging her with “improper hijab” (a religiously mandated woman’s head covering). Amini died in police custody a short time later, with activists claiming that she had been beaten to death while government officials said she had suffered a heart attack and hit her head on the ground.

In the wake of her death, aggressive “anti-hijab” protests sprang up throughout Iran as demonstrators called for an end to the country’s theocratic government. Dozens of police officers and more than 500 demonstrators were killed in violent clashes that lasted for months.

Salehi was among those arrested during the protests in October 2022 after he made public statements against the Iranian government via his music videos. At the time, the rapper was accused of “assistance in sedition, assembly, and collusion, propaganda against the system and calling for riots.”

Last year, he was briefly released before being violently rearrested and sent back to prison two weeks later. During his brief window of freedom, he alleged that he had been tortured repeatedly and kept in solitary confinement for 252 days after his first detainment.

On Wednesday, Salehi’s lawyer Amir Raesian announced that “an order for the execution of Toomaj Salehi has been issued” by Branch One of the Isfahan Revolutionary Court. This independent ruling upended a decision by the Iranian Supreme Court that had reduced the charges against the dissident rapper, reinstating the capital sentence against him for the crime of “corruption on earth.”

“The fact is that the verdict of the court has clear legal conflicts,” Raesian said. “The contradiction with the ruling of the Supreme Court is considered the most important and at the same time the strangest part of this ruling.”

In light of the new sentence, Salehi now has 20 days to appeal to a pardoning committee to have the death penalty commuted.


Around 200 people protested with a vigil at the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin against the arrest of well-known Iranian rapper Toomaj Salehi. The musician was arrested for critical song lyrics./About 200 people protested with a vigil at the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin against the arrest of the well-known Iranian rapper Toomaj Salehi. The Musician was Arrested for Critical Song Lyrics  Protest against the arrest Iranian rapper Toomaj Salehi, berlin, berlin, germany - 04 Nov 2022/shutterstock_editorial_Protest_against_the_arrest_Ira_13609453d//2211050751
Mandatory Credit: Photo by snapshot-photography/F Boillot/Shutterstock (13609453d)

Salehi’s case has gained international attention through his immense social media following, which consists of 2.3 million followers on Instagram and tens of thousands of subscribers on YouTube. The hashtag #FreeToomaj has been trending on X and other platforms since his sentencing, even warranting comment from American and United Nations officials.

“We strongly condemn Toomaj Salehi’s death sentence and the five-year sentence for Kurdish-Iranian rapper Saman Yasin. We call for their immediate release,” the United States Office of the Special Envoy for Iran tweeted. “These are the latest examples of the regime’s brutal abuse of its own citizens, disregard for human rights, and fear of the democratic change the Iranian people seek.”