In a shocking turn of events, Iranian dissident rapper Toomaj Salehi found himself back in custody less than two weeks after his release from prison. Salehi, who had previously endured over a year of detainment, primarily in solitary confinement, faced charges related to his support for the widespread protest movement in Iran last year.
Reports from local sources and eyewitnesses reveal that Salehi, along with his acquaintances, was violently apprehended while walking down a street in the city of Babol on Thursday. A group of unidentified armed men attacked Salehi and his friends without warning, delivering blows with the ends of their rifles before blindfolding the rapper and taking him into custody.
The 32-year-old artist had gained attention for expressing support, both online and through his music, for the protests sparked by the tragic death of Mahsa Amini. The 22-year-old Kurdish Iranian woman passed away after being detained by the “morality police” and sent to a “re-education center” for allegedly not adhering to hijab rules.
Salehi, of Bakhtiari ethnic background, had actively called on Iranians to protest against the government when nationwide demonstrations erupted in mid-September last year. Following his arrest during the peak of the protests in October 2022, he was sentenced to six years and three months in prison but was granted bail on November 18 after a successful appeal filed by his attorney with Isfahan’s Revolutionary Court.
The appeal highlighted Salehi’s inadequate medical care for a broken leg during detention, and it was further bolstered by the general amnesty order announced by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei in February.
Recently, Salehi recorded a video detailing his harrowing experiences in prison, citing extensive torture, repeated blows to the head and face, and alleged broken fingers as he tried to shield himself. The video circulated on social media, shedding light on the harsh conditions he endured.
However, on Thursday, the Iranian judiciary news agency Mizan reported Salehi’s rearrest, citing charges of making false claims on social media without supporting documentation, as well as accusations of spreading lies and disturbing public opinion.
Sources close to Salehi disclosed to CNN that the rapper had initiated treatment and therapy for injuries sustained in prison and was scheduled for surgery in the coming days. The situation raises concerns about the treatment of dissidents in Iran and the suppression of voices advocating for change.