Vancouver MP joins fight to save hip-hop artist sentenced to death in Iran - New Canadian Media
Iranian hip-hop artist Toomaj Salehi has been charged with ‘spreading corruption on the Earth’ due to his support for the Women, Life, Freedom movement in Iran in 2022-23. North Vancouver MP Jonathan Wilkinson has joined the effort to save Salehi, who was sentenced to death in Iran on April 24 by an Islamic Revolutionary Court. | @OfficialToomaj/X.

Vancouver MP joins fight to save hip-hop artist sentenced to death in Iran

Federal cabinet minister Jonathan Wilkinson is lending his voice in the effort to save Toomaj Salehi, who is on death row in Iran following a decision by an Islamic Revolutionary Court.

A North Vancouver MP has joined the effort to save an Iranian hip-hop artist who was sentenced to death in Iran on April 24 by an Islamic Revolutionary Court.

Toomaj Salehi was charged with “spreading corruption on the Earth” due to his support for the Women, Life, Freedom movement in Iran in 2022-23. The news sparked protests by the Iranian diaspora worldwide, including in Canada.

In July of 2023, Jonathan Wilkinson, Member of Parliament for North Vancouver and Minister of Energy and Natural Resources, stepped forward to sponsor Salehi. He said he aims to help prevent Salehi’s potential execution and bring his plight as an important, talented and brave performer and musician to the fore.

“We aim to give hope and strength to those who continue to protest inside Iran, with the knowledge that the international community stands with them,” Wilkinson stated in an email.

The movement began following the death in custody of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini, who was arrested in Tehran by morality police – a dedicated unit that enforces strict dress codes for women – on Sept. 16, 2022. Since the protests began in Iran, there have been 22,000 arrests, and the Islamic regime has executed six men in connection with the movement. Additionally, at least seven more people have been sentenced to death in connection to the 2022 uprising, according to Amnesty International.

“With the news of Mahsa Amini’s death and the subsequent violent crackdown by the regime, I was moved to act and engaged with my constituents about a political sponsorship of individuals unlawfully imprisoned by the Iranian regime,” said Wilkinson.

“The hope of all sponsorships, including of Toomaj Salehi, is to prevent execution and pressure the regime for these individuals’ freedom,” said Wilkinson. “It is also to ensure that the regime knows that the world is watching their gross violation of human rights, including arresting many people like Toomaj Salehi on false or trumped-up accusations and forcing them through sham trials.”

The minister pointed out that “we must do all we can to pressure the regime to cease these illegal activities and treat those within their borders with respect and dignity.”

Wilkinson said Salehi’s plight was brought to his attention by a constituent in North Vancouver.

“After speaking with this individual and learning more about Salehi’s story, I was moved to act and declared his sponsorship shortly after,” he said. Wilkinson believes Salehi’s efforts to use music and the arts to draw attention to the plight faced by citizens in Iran is inspiring and courageous, and he must be released immediately and allowed to continue his work freely.

Wilkinson also noted the significant role of the Iranian community in the North Shore area, emphasizing that “the community’s activism also serves to keep detainees’ names front and center and humanize the very inhumane plight through which they are going.”

The MP stressed the crucial nature of this role, describing the plight of another person that he is sponsoring.

“Mohammad Rakhshani is a normal high schooler who found himself in the wrong place at the wrong time,” said Wilkinson. “He does not have a social media presence, and thus, it would not be difficult for him to be forgotten on the world stage. Keeping stories like Rakhshani’s alive through activism and awareness ensures the regime, Rakhshani’s friends and family, and Rakhshani himself knows that he has not been forgotten.”

The MP believes the international community plays an important role in addressing human rights issues in Iran.

“The international community must maintain constant pressure on regimes that fail to respect democracy and human rights, such as the present regime in Iran,” he said. “Many measures can be applied with this aim. For example, the sanctions that Canada has imposed upon Iran are some of the strongest and most far-reaching in the world. I believe these have an impact on how the regime carries out some of its activities.”

Since October 2022, Canada has imposed multiple sanctions on Iranian individuals and entities and its leadership.

Wilkinson mentioned that there are many countries around the world where citizens’ rights and freedoms are not respected, and in no case is this acceptable. He emphasized Canada stands with every single person who currently lives under authoritarian and unfree regimes and will continue to advocate in the strongest terms possible for freedom and human rights in every corner of the globe.

“We will continue to condemn the Iranian government for as long as it takes for human rights to be respected,” he said. “Canada salutes those in Iran who continue to raise their voices to bring attention to the human rights violations in the country – these people are taking great risks and deserve our solidarity. We also appreciate the efforts of the Iranian Canadian community, as well as the larger Canadian community, to bring this to the world’s attention and work towards a more just and fairer situation both in Iran and around the world.”


Hamid Jafari is a Vancouver-based New Canadian Media correspondent currently on a work experience placement with Glacier Media. This article was originally published on North Shore News.

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A Vancouver B.C based journalist who writes about the Iranian community in Canada, art, culture and social media trends.

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