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Club Tenco demands the immediate release of Toomaj Salehi

The Tenco Club of Sanremo calls for the immediate release of the Iranian rapper Toomaj Salehi, sentenced to the death penalty, by the revolutionary court of Isfahan, for “corruption on earth”. In reality, the condemnation is due to the songs that Salehi wrote and published to support the protests against the death of Mahsa Amini, killed by Iranian police on 16 September 2022, accused of not wearing her veil correctly.

Arrested in October 2022 during the protests of the Woman, Life, Freedom movement, Salehi was sentenced to six years and three months in prison. After over a year in prison, much of which in solitary confinement, his conviction was overturned by the Supreme Court and he was released in November 2023. Only twelve days later, however, he was arrested again for having reported in a video of the torture suffered in prison. Now we have received news of this “cruel and indignant attack on fundamental freedoms”, in the words of the NGO Humans Right Watch.

In the spring of 2020, shocked by the news of the death, after very long hunger strikes, of three members of the Turkish band Grup Yorum, censored and imprisoned by the Erdogan regime, we decided to create, in collaboration with Amnesty International Italia, the Yorum prize for give visibility to artists who risk their lives all over the world to defend democracy and freedom of expression.

In that same dramatic spring of 2020, the young videomaker Shady Habash died in the Egyptian prison of Tora after 800 days of waiting for trial for having shot the video clip for Balaha, a ferocious satire of the Egyptian dictator. The author of the lyrics of that song, Galal El-Behairy, has been locked up in the prisons of his country for over six years, officially condemned for having written a book of poems, The Finest Women On Earth. Balaha's interpreter, Ramy Essam, voice of the Tahrir Square revolution and 2020 Yorum winner, has been living in exile for a decade. The Syrian-Palestinian composer and musician Aeham Ahmad, 2023 Yorum prize winner, also had to flee his country due to the repression of ISIS terrorists and the Al-Assad regime.

We can no longer remain silent. We no longer want to remain silent in the face of another, further condemnation of an artist who risks his life just for having expressed his thoughts in defense of freedom and democracy. You can't be killed because of a song, a poem or a video clip. We invite all artists, civil society and Italian, European and international institutions to mobilize to save the life of Toomaj Salehi and ask the Iranian regime for his immediate release.