On September 16, 2022, Jina Mahsa Amini died. She died after being arrested by Iranian morality police for allegedly wearing an improperly fitting headscarf. Her death sparked the largest protests in Iran in decades.
I admit: Before September 2022, I was not particularly interested in Iran. I mean, no more than other people. I read news about the country and knew that there is a dictatorship in Iran. But back then I didn’t know, about the courage of its citizens, and about the terror that the Iranian government is waging against its own people.
Since September 2022 – and actually much longer – the women and men in Iran have been fighting for what we take for granted. The freedom to speak their mind. The right to criticize their government. The ability to decide for themselves what clothes they wear. For being able to live without fear of their own state.
I first came into closer contact with the Iranian protest movement in October 2022. I was on a trip to Rwanda to attend the Assembly of the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU), an international association of parliamentarians. There I gave a speech about the protests in Iran and the courage of the women and men who are taking to the streets.
The topic has been on my mind ever since. When I was asked if I would take on a political sponsorship for Toomaj Salehi in November 2022 I agreed immediately.
Toomaj is a very famous rapper in Iran, who supports the protests and criticizes the government with his lyrics and music. Because of this, he was arrested in October 2022 and sentenced to six years in prison in July 2023.
As a political sponsor for Toomaj, I have been pointing out his case and the human rights violations he faces at the hands of the Iranian regime: neither his arrest nor his conviction have any basis in the rule of law. He was tortured during his detention. He was punished for expressing his opinion.
I see it as my task to keep up the attention for Toomaj, both in the German public and towards the regime in Iran. That is why I have been writing letters every week since November 2022 to the Foreign Minister, the Ambassador to Germany and Iran’s highest judicial authority. And I am not doing this alone: Following my sponsorship of Toomaj, many of my colleagues in the Bundestag, as well as in other parliaments in Germany and Europe, have also taken on sponsorships for political prisoners in Iran.
We have to keep looking and not let up.