Iran: Artists call for support in letter from prison

1 November 2016


“We urge all artists from around the world to show their protest and criticism against all of this [being denied legal rights and medical attention], in a peaceful way, worthy of an artist,” wrote artists Hossein Rajabian and Mehdi Rajabian in a letter from prison. “Stand by our side and [don’t] forget us, because being forgotten is a human’s greatest pain.”

Freemuse obtained the letter written by filmmaker Hossein Rajabian on behalf of him and his brother, musician Mehdi Rajabian, who have been imprisoned since 5 June 2016 on a three-year sentence on charges of “insulting the sacred” and “propaganda against the state” through the production and promotion of underground music. Musician Yousef Emadi was sentenced in the same case but remains at liberty.

In September 2016, the Rajabian brothers went on a two-week  hunger strike protesting the lack of proper medical treatment for Mehdi’s spreading infection and for separating them into different wings of Tehran’s infamous Evin Prison.

The two United Nations Special Rapporteurs on cultural rights, Karima Bennoune, and freedom of expression, David Kaye, have called on Iranian authorities to free the artists along with the Special Rapporteurs on Iran, Ahmed Shaheed, and torture Mr. Juan E. Méndez.

Mehdi and Hossein are solely imprisoned for their art. Help make sure they are not forgotten.

Here are a few things you can do:

  • Share the letter on social media using #ArtIsNotACrime
  • Reach out to fellow artists, decision makers, political representatives, family and friends to call for their release
  • If you are an artist, take a moment on stage to remember that not all artists are free
  • Share this video Mehdi Rajabian helped create after his sentence before he was jailed:
  • Send a message of support and solidarity to the artists by emailing and we will do our best to get your message to them

Read the full letter here translated from Persian to English:

Since it is not possible to explain our entire case in this short letter, we will settle with taking this chance to only tell you about a small part of our experiences at Evin prison these past several months so that judicial authorities can no longer hide behind the pretense of ignorance about our circumstances; so there will be no room for excuses regarding our fate in this place, and so that their reaction to us will be worthy of an artist.

From our perspective as artists, we can state clearly that these authorities have neither kept their promises to us, nor responded to our inquiries with logical and convincing answers.

We have several times through letters tried to appeal for the continuance of treatment for Mehdi Rajabian’s (my brother) illness outside of the prison. Not only did they not respond to any appeals, but when Mehdi tried to object the lack of response, he was separated from me, Hossein Rajabian, and sent to another part (section 8) of the prison. This separation and keeping us apart, caused us great mental, physical and financial distress. This went so far that we eventually went on a hunger strike, which led to both of our pre-existing illnesses to worsen, and I got pneumonia. I was sent to the Imam Khomeini Hospital for a week to receive treatment for my pneumonia, but that incident is a whole other story by itself, for another time.

Our hunger strike finally came to an end with an official visit from a representative of the Attorney General, assuring us that Mehdi would be moved (to receive treatment) and that we would be reunited. Two months have passed without a word from the representative, and conditions have worsened. It seems this representative’s purpose was only to trick us into ending our hunger strike and thereby silencing our protest.

The most peculiar thing of all is that through all of this we have been denied our legal rights to see an attorney, without being given a reasonable reason for them to do so. We will therefore, in protest, from this point on, no longer agree to see any lawyers or family.

With this letter, describing our circumstances, we urge all artists from around the world to show their protest and criticism against all of this, in a peaceful way, worthy of an artist, and stand by our side and not forget us, because being forgotten is a human’s greatest pain.

Lastly, we declare to the judicial authorities of our country that if this neglect and denial of our health, legal and human rights continues, we will react strongly, and from a specific date in October or November start a more severe hunger strike that cannot be tempered by any judicial authority until our release.

Hossein Rajabian, incarcerated Filmmaker
Mehdi Rajabian, incarcerated Composer and Musician

CORRECTION: This story has been updated as of 14 September 2017 to reflect that it remains unclear whether musician Yousef Emadi was imprisoned at the same time as the Rajabian brothers and whether he remains in prison.

More from Freemuse

» 12 September 2016: Iran: Jailed artists go on hunger strike

» 24 June 2016: UN: “Artistic expression is not a crime” – Special Rapporteurs urge the Iranian government to free jailed artists

» 7 June 2016: Iran: Musician and filmmaker imprisoned

» 30 May 2016: Iran: Two musicians and a filmmaker summoned to prison 

» 29 February 2016: Iran: Two musicians and a filmmaker sentenced

» 27 January 2016: Iran: 165 Iranian artists and activists protest charges against two musicians and a filmmaker

» 15 January 2016: Call on Iranian authorities to drop charges on two musicians and a filmmaker

» 14 December 2015: Iran: Music distributors await appeal decision for six years in prison

» 17 December 2013: Iran: Musician and music distributors arrested

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