Fears Mount Over Health Of Jailed Iranian Rapper

By RFE/RL's Radio Farda

Family members of Iranian rapper Toomaj Salehi say they are concerned about his health after he was arrested during the ongoing protests rocking the country following the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini in police custody after being arrested for allegedly violating the Islamic dress code.

On November 1, state-affiliated media published a video of Salehi, who was arrested last week, that some Iranians on social media say shows signs of possible torture.

Salehi is seen blindfolded and appears to be in fear or distress.

Iranian authorities have a history of broadcasting what former political prisoners say are frequently forced confessions following torture and other abuse.

The state judiciary's Mizan news agency quoted Isfahan prosecutor Seyyed Mohammad Musaviyan as saying Salehi was arrested on charges of "propaganda activity against the regime, cooperation with hostile governments, and forming an illegal group with the intention of disrupting the security of the country."

Salehi's uncle told the BBC that his nephew was injured during his arrest and the family has not heard from him since.

Agents have also reportedly prevented Salehi from receiving money or clothes in prison.

Salehi gained notoriety for lyrics that rail against corruption, widespread poverty, state executions, and the killing of protesters in Iran.

His songs also point to a widening gap between ordinary Iranians and the country’s leadership, accusing authorities of “suffocating” the people without regard for their well-being.

Officials in Iran routinely target artists and intellectuals who don’t follow the official line and touch on topics deemed as sensitive.

Several Iranian celebrities, including soccer star Ali Daei, have been interrogated and had their passports confiscated after showing support for the anti-government protests that have occurred daily since Amini's death on September 16.

Most Iranian rappers publish their music without approval from Iran’s Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance, the branch of the regime that regulates artistic work and enforces strict censorship rules.

Several rappers have been detained in recent years, and others have chosen to live abroad.

Written by Ardeshir Tayebi based on an original story in Persian by RFE/RL's Radio Farda