Amnesty International and renowned Iranian music band Kiosk are calling on artists and members of the public around the world to join a #FreeArtists campaign to demand that Iran immediately and unconditionally release jailed artists, including a musician and a filmmaker who are on hunger strike in Tehran’s Evin Prison.
The brothers, musician Mehdi Rajabian and filmmaker Hossein Rajabian, are currently serving three-year prison terms. They were convicted in 2015 after a blatantly unfair trial before a Revolutionary Court of charges that included “insulting Islamic sanctities” and “illegal audio-visual activities”. On 28 October 2016, they began their second hunger strike in protest against their imprisonment.
A third artist Keywan Karimi has also been sentenced to six years’ in prison for “insulting Islamic sanctities”, also related to his artistic work and is at imminent risk of imprisonment.
“Expressing yourself through art is not a crime.”
Philip Luther, Amnesty International’s Research and Advocacy Director for the Middle East and North Africa.
“Expressing yourself through art is not a crime and it is outrageous that the Iranian authorities have resorted to locking up artists and musicians simply for their artistic work. Mehdi and Hossein Rajabian are prisoners of conscience who shouldn’t be forced to spend a single minute behind bars. The Iranian authorities must order their immediate and unconditional release,” said Philip Luther, Amnesty International’s Research and Advocacy Director for the Middle East and North Africa.
“Their imprisonment is yet another nail in the coffin for freedom of expression in Iran. The human right to liberty is sadly so undervalued by the Iranian authorities that they are prepared to condemn individuals to years in jail just to silence artistic voices that they deem as ‘anti-Islamic’ and ‘anti-revolutionary’.”
The brothers have put their health at risk by going on hunger strike as a last resort to demand their freedom. They have said they will refuse intravenous drips until they are released from prison.
Since his hunger strike, Mehdi Rajabian has coughed up blood twice and says that he was punched in the stomach by a prison doctor after being taken to the prison clinic. Amnesty International is also demanding that the Iranian authorities ensure both brothers have access to a qualified health professional.