Mehdi Rajabian, Hossein Rajabian and Yousef Emadi, all managers of BargMusic—one of the main producers and distributors of underground music in Iran since its launch in 2009—have been summoned to Evin Prison in Tehran to begin serving their prison sentences next week, an informed source told the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran.
“They are shocked that they have to go to prison so quickly,” said the source. “All they want right now is for artists around the world to not forget about them while they are in prison.”
In Iran, musicians must pass official censors and receive government licenses in order to produce music; without such authorization they risk arrest and imprisonment.
Three music distributors were due to begin their sentences on May 26, 2016, but the date was postponed until June 4 because of Mehdi Rajabian’s medical treatments, said the source.
The source added that Mehdi Rajabian may have muscular dystrophy based on symptoms detected by doctors after he had endured intense interrogation sessions: “He has to get an MRI every month and take regular shots. His family is very worried about what’s going to happen to his health and treatments once he goes to prison.”
The three music distributors were initially sentenced in May 2015 to six years in prison and fined 200 million rials (approximately $6,600 USD) each for “insulting the sacred” and “propaganda against the state” by Judge Mohammad Moghisseh. In February 2016 the Appeals Court upheld the fine but reduced the prison sentence to three years with an additional suspended three-year prison sentence.
The three were arrested on October 5, 2013, by the Revolutionary Guards’ Intelligence Organization and held for more than two months in solitary confinement at Ward 2-A of Evin Prison before they were released on two billion rials (about $66,650 USD) bail each.
“The bail amount has not yet been returned and Mehdi’s studio is still locked up and he has no access to his equipment or bank accounts,” said the source.
Mehdi Rajabian, Hossein Rajabian and Yousef Emadi were accused of “spreading corruption” by distributing music without a permit, and working with female singers (who are prohibited from singing solo under Iran’s religious-based laws) as well as “anti-revolutionary” musicians abroad. The source said that the three maintain that they sought but never received permits for their work, which was never political in nature.
The year of 2015 saw an alarming number of artists harassed and punished with heavy prison sentences for creating and publishing work deemed threatening to the state or offensive to Islam.
Since 2013, when President Hassan Rouhani was voted into office while promising a more open society, numerous state-sanctioned musicians, including the popular musical artists Alireza Ghorbani and Sirvan Khosravi, have also seen their concerts canceled at the last moment.