For Immediate Release

Thurs., April 20, 2023

Contact: Suzanne Trimel, [email protected], 201-247-5057

(NEW YORK) – The Islamic Republic of Iran’s judiciary amnesty commission today rejected an amnesty request from Kurdish rapper Saman Yasin, who was arrested in October 2022 and handed a death sentence. PEN America’s Artists at Risk Connection (ARC) released a statement calling on the Iranian authorities to immediately release Yasin and put an end to all threats and intimidations against activists, writers, and artists in Iran. 

“We are deeply disappointed to learn that Saman Yasin’s request for amnesty has been rejected. His initial arrest was unjust and arbitrary, and for the last six months, he has been forcibly detained in the most inhumane conditions, at the cost of his physical and emotional health. Our hearts go out to Yasin and his family and friends, and we urge the Iranian authorities to grant him amnesty and release him from prison at once,” said Julie Trebault, the Director of PEN America’s Artists at Risk Connection (ARC). “Iranian authorities have continually attempted to target artists and extinguish their voices, because their playbook never changes – and nor does their fear of the power of artists – but they will not succeed.” 

Yasin was arrested by security forces on October 2 after he released Kurdish protest songs about government oppression and unemployment in Iran and expressed solidarity with the mass demonstrations that broke out in Iran last September following the death of 22-year old Mahsa Amini in state custody. Yasin was detained in Rajai Shahr Prison, charged with “moharebeh” (war against God), and subsequently handed a death sentence by the 15th Branch of the Islamic Revolutionary Court. Yasin has been repeatedly subjected to torture during his time in prison, and attempted suicide in December. His death sentence was reversed in January. Yasin’s case will be retried by the Islamic Revolutionary Court of Tehran on May 8. 

Along with Yasin, numerous high-profile artists have been targeted for their role in the protests and have remained in detention indefinitely, including rapper Toomaj Salehi, who received a possible death sentence in December. Meanwhile, the Islamic Republic of Iran has recently doubled down on its efforts to punish artists who supported the protests. On Monday, Mohammad Mehdi Esmaili, Minister of Culture and Islamic Guidance, demanded that dissident artists must “express remorse” in order to be removed from the government’s blacklist and permitted to resume their creative work. 

Iran is among the top five jailers of artists in PEN America’s Freedom to Write Index, which provides an annual count of jailed writers worldwide. More about PEN America’s work on Iran can be found here.

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 artist at risk, 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