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Over eight months after the death of Mahsa Amini in Iranian morality police custody ignited the largest nationwide protests in decades, an Iranian-American artist is raising awareness for two rappers facing a death sentence over their support for free speech and women’s rights.
“You try to hide the truth, but we know what’s the truth. Propaganda news: we know it ain’t true,” the chorus begins over a booming but ominous beat. Clips from Iranian leaders and mass protests blare on a TV as literal sparks invade the screen.
Despite widespread news coverage during the beginning of the freedom and women’s rights uprising in September 2022, national media outlets have largely turned a blind eye since then.
Fighting through the noise, the music producer and rapper behind the song hopes to raise awareness for two Iranian rappers who still face a death sentence for lyrics they wrote that garnered support for the movement. The exact conditions of Toomaj Salehi and Saman Yasin are unknown as the nation’s Supreme Leader maintains a vice grip on the country.
The Black Wall Street Times spoke with Oklahoma artist Nima T, who wrote the song and produced the music video for “Freedom.” We are not revealing his last name in order to protect his family members who remain in Iran.
“It’s pretty much the same. The way it was with Brittney Griner is how it is now. He’s still in confinement–Toomaj. Then the other rapper, Saman Yasin, they might execute him. The only people speaking up are outside the country,” Nima T told The Black Wall Street Times.
Iranian rappers in limbo as death sentence hangs overhead
Following the death of Mahsa Amini, a member of the Kurdish ethnic minority group, thousands of protesters from both conservative and more liberal backgrounds joined in protests against the Islamic Republic. Many burned their hijabs, a head-covering for women that is brutally enforced by the nation’s so-called morality police.
After defying authorities, the Iranian government has continued to implement a brutal crackdown in the country, killing hundreds of men, women and children and detaining thousands more.
Some of those detained include Toomaj and Saman, popular rappers in Iran.
“I recorded the song right when the uprising started,” Nima T said. “It was one of those things where I just recorded a verse.” Then his cousin hopped on the track, and months later, they released a music video.
“This ain’t something new. We know who’s the fool. Your time cutting close. We know what to choose: Freedom. Freedom. Freedom. Freedom,” the chorus continues. The song is directed at religious leaders known as Mullahs, as well as Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei.
Since 1989, Khamenei has ruled what was once known as Persia with an iron fist. A decade earlier, before a 1979 resolution brought hardline clerics into power, Iran was a close ally of the United States and was becoming the most westernized nation in the Middle East.
Yet for nearly the last half-century, Iranians living in the country, especially women, have faced harsh conditions.
“All of the events that happened, I wanted to use that as background [for the music video]. We got a projector, and found YouTube clips of protests,” Nima T said.
“I really feel like most conscious Iranians think like this. Iran has bribed world media I think. All of the sudden we go from everyone covering Iran to all of the sudden every one stops, and you don’t hear anything,” he added.
In recent days, Iran has executed three anti-government protesters, and vandals desecrated the grave belonging to Mahsa Amini, the BBC reported.
In response to Iran’s decision to kill its own citizens, the United States and other Western nations have increased sanctions against the country. U.S. Congress has formed a bipartisan House committee, the Iranian Women Congressional Caucus, to raise awareness of the ongoing plight after news broke of the poisoning of Iranian schoolgirls.
Young people lead the majority of protests, and the government denies involvement in the poisonings.
For its part, the United Nations recently awarded a press freedom prize to Iranian female journalists imprisoned in the country.
Yet Nima T isn’t satisfied with the largely performative gestures. He wants concrete action.
“Talk is one thing, but taking action is a whole other thing. The U.S. government can expel the Iranian diplomats while they’re here,” Nima T said.
Hope for peace and democracy: and life for Iranian rappers
At least 522 people have been killed since protest began over Amini’s in-custody death, according to Norway-based Iran Human Rights Group. Yet that number only reflects deaths from September 2022 to January 2023. Iran has also cut or limited access to wifi for Iranian citizens, making it that much more difficult to spread the truth about what’s taking place. Tiktok has been one of the few remaining avenues to get the word out.
Meanwhile, some researchers still have hope that peace and democracy can come to Iran.
“The miracle in this uprising is that 40 years of propaganda against different parts of the Iranian society has come to an end. There is a unity in the uprising. Different cities, people, religions, women, men. All of them are there,” Iranian human rights researcher Amin Riahi previously told The Black Wall Street Times.
Youth continue to protest the weekly executions taking place in Iran. Yet Nima T is calling on the West to put its money where its mouth is.
“If everybody gets in on it,” change can come, Nima T said. “We all hope for a free Iran, but at the same time, the Iranians outside [the country]are not willing to throw their life away. Outside governments need to step in.”
Iranians do not respect black folks therefore why do we care who the execute? Make it make sense.
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