Iran: Jailed artists go on hunger strike

12 September 2016

According to Freemuse sources, musician Mehdi Rajabian and his brother, filmmaker Hossein Rajabian, have gone on hunger strike as of 7 September 2016 to protest against prison authorities not granting Mehdi a promised furlough to seek medical attention for a spreading infection and for separating them by moving Mehdi, while still ill, to the section for political prisoners.

Mehdi has been suffering from an illness while in custody that has become a more serious infection leaving him with a high fever and the need to be moved to get proper medical help. Prison authorities promised him a furlough, but after a few days told him that it wasn’t his turn and needed to wait for two more weeks and ask again.

Mehdi protested as his infection is spreading and he is getting worse. An hour later, rather than moving him to a ward where he could get proper medical attention and rest, prison authorities separated him from his brother and moved him to Section 8, the section reserved for political prisoners in Tehran’s infamous Evin Prison.

Imprisoned for their art
The two brothers were imprisoned for their art on 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.

The two artists were prosecuted and sentenced after an ordeal that began in October 2013 – where the two brothers and a third artist, musician Yousef Emadi, were detained for two months in solitary confinement in Evin Prison and Mehdi was repeatedly tortured – and a long sentencing and appeals process that carried through 2015 and 2016.

International call for freedom and charges dropped
Freemuse and the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran, along with 14 other human rights organisations, on 15 January 2016 protested the 2013 imprisonment and 2015 sentencing of the three artists, and called on the head of the judiciary and other Iranian authorities to drop the charges against them.

Further, 170 Iranian musicians, filmmakers, writers and activists signed and released a statement objecting to the artists’ treatments and called for dropping the charges.

On 24 June 2016 the two United Nations Special Rapporteurs on cultural rights, Karima Bennoune, and freedom of expression, David Kaye, issued a statement calling on Iranian authorities to free the artists. The statement was also endorsed by the Special Rapporteurs on Iran, Ahmed Shaheed, and torture Mr. Juan E. Méndez.

Please help us in getting the charges dropped against the artists and freeing Mehdi and Hossein by taking action, sharing the news and video below, and using the hashtag #ArtIsNotACrime on your social media profiles and with partners, colleagues and friends.

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

» 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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