Iranian authorities have moved Tomaaj Salehi, a jailed rapper who has supported the current wave of anti-government protests, to Tehran’s notorious Evin prison, the family told IranWire.
Officials claim Salehi was arrested on October 30 while attempting to flee Iran. The family denies that, and said the arrest took place in the south-western Chaharmahal and Bakhtiari province.
Salehi’s uncle, Iqbal Iqbali, told IranWire that the family on November 1 went to Dastgerd prison in Isfahan, where they were told the rapper had been “transferred to Evin prison’s Ward 2-A.”
There, Salehi “is in the hands of intelligence officials” and “is not allowed to call or receive visits," Iqbali said, adding that his nephew’s life was in danger.
"As I was told, Tomaj and his friends were beaten [during the arrest]. On the photos of Tomaaj published after his arrest, his head and face are bloody.”
Evin prison is known for housing political prisoners and for the ill-treatment of inmates.
A source with knowledge of the matter said Salehi was arrested with two of his friends.
"They launched a military operation to arrest Tomaj. Seventeen armed and masked people stormed his house in the middle of the night. All of them were in plainclothes, except two soldiers who had their faces covered," the source said.
"They beat Tomaaj's relatives with indescribable violence, removed the cameras, and when the neighbors resisted, they beat them too.”
The singer has been targeted in the past for his lyrics condemning state repression and injustice in Iran.
In September 2021, he was detained at his home in the central city of Isfahan and sent behind bars. He was accused of “propaganda against the regime” and "insulting the leadership." The rapper was later released on bail amid widespread condemnation of his arrest by his supporters and human rights groups.
Thousands of Iranians have taken to the streets across Iran over the past six weeks, following the September 16 death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini in the custody of Tehran’s morality police. The largely peaceful demonstrations have grown to become the biggest challenge to Iran’s regime since the 2009 protest movement.
The unrest triggered a heavy-handed crackdown in which security forces fired bullets and tear gas at protesters, killing at least 277 people, according to one human rights group. IranWire reported the deaths of 48 children. Several thousand people were also arrested.