The Plight of Toomaj Salehi: questions for self proclaimed political sponsors

Iran sentenced a rapper to death. Where are the international political sponsors?

On April 24th, devastating news emerged from Iran. In an unprecedented move, even for the Islamic Republic of Iran, the Islamic Revolutionary Court of Isfahan overruled the Supreme Court of Iran, sentencing Iranian rapper Toomaj Salehi to death.

Toomaj Salehi is an artist and an active participant in the “Woman, Life, Freedom” movement sparked by the death of Mahsa Amini. Tehran’s Morality Police arrested a young IraTehran’san, Amini and subsequently died in custody. The movement saw courageous Iranian girls, women, and men standing up against the governing theocracy, which responded with lethal force, resulting in numerous deaths and arrests.

The struggle for freedom and human dignity in the Middle East has been notably led by women and girls who challenge the mandatory hijab as a symbol of oppression. Each breeze that passes through the hair of an Iranian woman symbolizes a spark of hope ignited from the ashes of the regime’s authority.

Politicians worldwide have expressed solidarity with the movement, imposing further sanctions on Iran and participating in rallies alongside the Iranian diaspora. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was even heard shouting “Zan – Zendegi – Azadi” (Woma”, Life, Freedom in Farsi) at a rally.

However, many politicians also view this as a political opportunity. Around fifty Canadian MPs, among others worldwide, have publicly supported political prisoners from this movement and designated themselves as political sponsors and guardian of prisoners. This widespread sponsorship has been seen as a beacon of hope within Iran, suggesting that international support could temper the regime’s acts.

After all, these sponsors are among the world’s most powerful and influential political elite. They could – if they wanted – create a network of sponsors. They could coordinate their efforts; they could launch international campaigns.

But reality paints a different picture. Many sponsors treat their involvement as a political gain, limiting their actions to sporadic tweets and media appearances, often only when their supported individuals face extreme consequences like execution. They use this self-designated title to showcase their moral values rather than effect real change.

Now, another Iranian prisoner, who has not been accused of violence but merely of singing, faces execution. This individual, politically sponsored by Western politicians, highlights the limitations of one MP against a brutal regime. However, when someone voluntarily assumes such a role, it is not unreasonable for us, the people, to expect thoughtful engagement and proactive plans beyond inconsequential social media posts.

These politicians have turned political sponsorship into a commodity, gaining moral standing and the votes of parts of the Iranian diaspora. Yet, their inaction allows not only the Islamic Republic of Iran but also other authoritarian regimes to breathe easier, seeing these acts as merely performative, which encourages them to continue their oppressive actions without fear of consequences.

The same day the regime launched an unprecedented military attack on Israel, it also intensified violent clashes with Iranian women refusing to wear the hijab. In some neighbourhoods, the streets resembled battlefields. Additionally, the regime imprisoned several political figures for their participation in a discussion about Iran’s Iran.

The continued reliance on sanctions and empty rhetoric only empowers the bully. With the unjust sentencing of Toomaj Salehi, these international allies have an opportunity to prove their sincerity. Like Agent Mulder in The X-Files, “I want “to believe.” I want” to believe these politicians didn’t disappoint themselves as sponsors for political gain. I want to believe their actions yield results. But they must provide tangible evidence.

Toomaj Salehi’s life is in immediate danger, and with it, the credibility of his (and all other) international sponsors is at stake.

Leave a Reply