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Iranian Rapper Faces Execution After Online Activity Supporting Women’s Rights Protests

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The draconian sentence of a celebrated Iranian rapper, known for his staunch opposition to the regime, offers a stark portrait of Iran’s stifling repression of freedom of speech. Toomaj Salehi, 33, is set to face the gallows after he supported and posted pictures of himself amidst the crowds advocating for the cause of Mahsa Amini, an Iranian Kurd who was killed in police custody after being detained for improper wearing of a hijab.

The news about the execution order was shared on Wednesday by Mr. Salehi’s legal counsel with the Iranian newspaper, Sharq.

Salehi had previously raised his voice in support of a string of demonstrations, which rallied under the banner “Women, Life, Freedom.” His online posts led to his detention in October of 2022.

The rapper, additionally, courted controversy by leveraging his art to share online messages critical of the Iranian regime. His songs, openly advocating for more liberties and women’s rights, struck a chord with many.

Related: Iran plans Trudeau tactics to freeze bank accounts of women who refuse to wear hijab

Amini’s life was cut short in September of 2022 after being apprehended on allegations of violating the country’s stringent hijab rules. Her death set off a sweeping tide of public unrest that not only resulted in thousands of arrests but also led to claims of torture and even fatalities at the hands of Iranian law enforcement. Iran notoriously shut off internet access in an attempt to curb the protests.

In light of his musical activism and public statements supporting the demonstrations, Salehi had his first brush with the law in 2022. Paradoxically, he managed to evade capital punishment last year following his arrest ordeal. Instead, he was given a prison sentence of six years and three months for “corrupting planet Earth.”

He escaped the fatal verdict due to a Supreme Court intervention that deemed flaws with his initial sentence leading to its relegation to a lower court for reassessment.

“Branch One of the Revolutionary Court of Isfahan in an unprecedented move, did not enforce the Supreme Court’s ruling…and sentenced Salehi to the harshest punishment,” his lawyer Amir Raisian told Sharq.

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