Story By: Basant Essam, Sub-Editor: Marija Stojkoska, Agency: Newsflash
An Iranian rapper has been arrested for openly criticising the regime in his songs.
Toomaj Salehi was arrested by the security forces at his home in the Iranian city of Isfahan last week and taken to an unknown location, according to the Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA).
A spokesperson for the agency, which is run by a group of human rights campaigners in Iran, said: “Security forces searched his home and took away some of his personal belongings.”
Salehi wrote on his Twitter account days before his arrest that he suspected it was about to happen.
Meanwhile, reports said his accounts on Twitter and Instagram, where he shared his music clips, have since been taken down.
Human rights lawyer Gissou Nia said on social media: “Rap was born out of the struggles of oppressed communities challenging the status quo. This applies to Iran, where rapper @ToomajSalehi calls out regime abuses in his art. For speaking truth to power, he has now been detained by IRI security forces. #FreeToomaj.”
Many human rights activists in Iran believe the rapper was arrested for one of his recent songs titled ‘Soorakh Moosh’ (‘Mouse Hole’) that openly criticised the regime and went viral on social networks.
In the lyrics, Salehi also slammed the “apologists” and supporters of the government of the Islamic Republic of Iran.
He also criticised local journalists and celebrities for not doing enough to call out the regime as well as the Washington-based NGO, the National Iranian American Council (NIAC).
Iranian dissidents have repeatedly criticised the NIAC for lobbying on behalf of Iran’s leaders and failing to represent Iranians living in the US who they claim to represent.
The hashtag ‘FreeToomaj’ was trending on social media last week following his arrest by the security forces.
The judicial authorities have yet to comment on Salehi’s arrest and there have been no further updates on the charges and punishment he is likely to face.