An exiled Iranian rapper and his bandmates recently stripped on stage in protest of the harsh treatment — including strip searches — that political prisoners are subject to in his home country.
Shahin Najafi’s Toronto performance on June 7 was said to have stirred up much interest on Iranian social media sites, as the public figure associated with Islamic apostasy took his cause to a new and shocking level.
Najafi, a resident of Germany since 2005, was issued a death sentence fatwa by Grand Ayatollah Lotfollah Safi Golpaygani for apostasy in 2012 after the singer released a song deemed offensive to Islam. The controversial rapper has also been subject to repeated death threats and calls for his execution. One Islamist website, Shia Online, offered a $100,000 reward for his murder, the BBC reported.
The concert stunt aimed to raise awareness of the plight of inmates in Iran’s Evin Prison Ward 350. In April, political prisoners, including prominent activists, were said to be brutally beaten by guards, in an attack condemned by international human rights groups.
A clip of the concert can be viewed below (viewer discretion advised):
According to the deputy director of Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa Program, the incident at Evin prison occurred during a routine cell check, at which dozens of prisoners demanded to be present. The request was said to be met with disproportionate force.
“Security officials responded with an appalling level of brutality to the protest at Evin prison, beating prisoners, dragging them along the floor and verbally insulting them. Subjecting prisoners to such ill-treatment is a gross abuse of a prison official’s power,” Deputy Director Said Boumedouha said.
Some 32 other prisoners were sent to solitary confinement following the raid, and others were subject to strip searches and other humiliating measures, the human rights group claimed.
Following the raid, which was dubbed “Black Thursday,” Gholamhossein Esmaeili, the head of Iran’s Prisons Organization, was removed from the position and transferred to the Iranian judiciary.
In February, a letter penned by 47 political prisoners in the ward, was smuggled out of the prison. In it, the detainees described the lack of medical treatment afforded to those held.
“Many of us are dying and many of us have developed further ailments from lack of medicine,” it said, according to a translation by the Gatestone Institute.
“Sometimes the prison doctors declare the patient fit and healthy in order to punish the prisoner, and the authorities look the other way. Getting involved in the paperwork and red tape to insist on going to a hospital is always met with humiliation, insults, and harassment by prison doctors and guards,” the prisoners claimed.