(NEW YORK) – PEN America’s Artists at Risk Connection (ARC) strongly condemns the arbitrary detention of Iranian rapper Vafa Ahmadpour and calls for his immediate release.  

“Vafa Ahmadpour’s arrest is another terrible example of the unjust persecution faced by rappers and artists like Toomaj Salehi and Saman Yasin, who dare speak out against government policies. The Iranian government’s relentless suppression of independent voices is a flagrant violation of basic human rights and a deliberate attack on artistic freedom,” said Julie Trébault, director of Artists at Risk Connection. “The Iranian government fears the power of artists because it instinctively understands the potential of art to inspire citizens to dream of a better, more equitable future for all. ” 

Arrested on February 4, Ahmadpour was coerced into surrendering himself into custody after Iranian authorities forced their way into his home and threatened his family. His current whereabouts are unknown. According to Iranwire, “agents forcefully entered Ahmadpour’s residence, took his family hostage, and demanded him to hand himself over,” which the rapper did. ARC’s profound concern extends to the safety and well-being of Ahmadpour’s family, who should not be treated as pawns in the government’s program of persecution.

Ahmadpour spent the past year in hiding from Iranian security forces, who finally tracked him down after visiting his previous places of work and business. He is best known for his songs dedicated to Mohammad Mehdi Karimi and Mohammad Hosseini, who were executed in January 2023 on charges of “Moharebeh” (War against God) for participating in Iran’s “Woman, Life, Freedom” protests following the custodial death of Mahsa Amini

According to PEN America’s most recent Freedom To Write Index, at least 57 Iranian writers were arrested for their work in 2022, making Iran the second-highest jailer of writers in the world after China. On December 10, 2023, imprisoned Iranian writer and human rights activist and 2023 PEN/Barbey Freedom To Write awardee Narges Mohammadi was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in absentia. PEN America and ARC continue to demand her immediate release.


About the Artists at Risk Connection

The Artists at Risk Connection (ARC) is a project of PEN America dedicated to assisting imperiled artists and fortifying the networks and organizations that support them. If you or someone you know is an at-risk artist, please contact ARC.


About PEN America

PEN America stands at the intersection of literature and human rights to protect open expression in the United States and worldwide. We champion the freedom to write, recognizing the power of the word to transform the world. Our mission is to unite writers and their allies to celebrate creative expression and defend the liberties that make it possible. Learn more at pen.org.

Contact: Dietlind Lerner, [email protected] tel. +1 310 699 8775