United for Iran Condemns Religious Ruling to Kill Iranian Rapper
Calls On Iranian Authorities to Hold Clerics Accountable for Incitement to Murder
Thursday, May 17, 2012 Washington, DC – United for Iran condemns the issuing of a death ruling for rapper Shahin Najafi by grand ayatollahs Safi Golpaygani and Naser Makarem Shirazi in response to Najafi’s song “Naghi” – the name of Shi’ite Islam’s 10th imam. United for Iran calls on the Iranian government to condemn the cleric-issued fatwa, reform its penal code to remove the death penalty for those labeled “apostates,” and to institute provisions that outlaw incitement to murder, including in fatwas issued by clerics.
The fatwa was issued in response to the May 7 release of Najafi’s song, a social and political commentary on conditions inside Iran. Powerful conservative clerics and related Shia websites have called for Najafi’s killing, even offering a $100,000 reward for carrying it out. The ruling and subsequent campaigning by radical religious groups in support of Najafi’s killing has been reported by Fars News, an Iranian media outlet close to Iran’s security organs. Najafi, 31, a popular contemporary Iranian musician who resides in Germany, has told reporters that he fears for his life.
Article 513 of Iran’s current penal code, and Article 263 of its new penal code (yet to be signed into law) allow for death sentences for individuals who are judged to have committed “apostasy,” including those deemed to have insulted Prophet Muhammad and his imams. Iranian religious leaders have from time to time issued fatwas outside the legal parameters of the law, which are interpreted as death sentences intended to be carried out by their followers. If an individual carries out a fatwa, a “mahdoor-ol-dam” (deserving of death) definition from Iran’s penal code can be used in defense of the killing. The UN Human Rights Committee, which oversees the implementation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), to which Iran is a state party, has called on Iran to remove the “mahdoor-ol-dam” definition from its current penal code. While the term has been omitted from the pending new penal code, it still technically allows perpetrators who commit murder against those considered to be an “apostate” to escape or lessen their punishment.
Article 6 and Article 19 of the ICCPR respectively protect the right to life and freedom of expression. These international legal provisions obligate the Government of Iran to ensure that individuals within its territory do not incite the killing of those freely expressing their views. United for Iran calls upon the Government of Iran to outlaw the issuing of death rulings by religious leaders and reminds Iranian officials that under international law, states cannot invoke internal law to justify non-compliance with the treaties they have signed.
“In Iran, domestic laws and unwritten laws are failing to protect the right to life and expression,” said Dokhi Fassihian, Director of Programs and Advocacy at United for Iran. “Politically-motivated fatwas by religious leaders are seemingly aimed to deter dissent against government policies.”
In 1989, a similar fatwa was issued for British writer Salman Rushdie by Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, founder of the Islamic Republic of Iran. The fatwa has never been rescinded and at least one assassination attempt was carried out in 1989 against Rushdie, resulting in the death of the bomber. In 1999, a United Nations resolution welcomed assurances given by the Government of Iran that it had no intention of taking any action to threaten the life of Rushdie, or of encouraging anyone to do so. But the issuing of fatwas continues. A fatwa against Azerbaijani journalist Rafiq Tagi issued by Iranian Grand Ayatollah Fazel Lankarani is suspected in Tagi’s killing last year. After the Grand Ayatollah’s death in 2007, his son Ayatollah Mohammad Javad Lankarani posted a statement on his website congratulating Tagi’s killer.
“The Iranian government has an urgent responsibility to prosecute incitement to murder and to once and for all bring all of its citizens, including religious leaders, under a legal framework that upholds and protects fundamental rights,” Fassihian said.
Please, express your concern directly to Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, President of the Islamic Republic of Iran, and Ayatollah Sadegh Larijani, Iran’s Judiciary Chief. Send a letter
urging the Islamic Republic of Iran to condemn the fatwa that clerics have issued against Najafi and to outlaw the issuing of death rulings by religious leaders.