Iran rapper who backed Khamenei and nuclear power arrested for spreading depravity

Special to

Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty

By Farangis Najibullah and Mohammad Reza Yazdanpanah

Iranian fans have taken to Instagram and other social media to demand the release of Amir Tataloo, a popular and controversial rapper arrested on charges of spreading depravity among youth.

“Free Tataloo!” and “He Is Not Guilty!” say dozens of comments posted on the Instagram account of Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

Amir Tataloo.
Amir Tataloo.

“Musicians Don’t Belong In Jail,” others wrote.

The flamboyant and heavily tattooed 29-year-old star, whose real name is Amir Hossein Maghsoodloo, was detained by plainclothes officers on a Tehran street on August 23.

According to Tataloo’s Instagram page, a court prolonged his detention in a ruling the following day.

Tataloo has more than 3.2 million followers on Instagram and 1.25 million on Facebook.

Despite his strong fan base, however, Tataloo remains an underground musician as he has not been approved by the Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance.

The lack of a license from the ministry means that Tataloo’s songs cannot be aired on Iran’s official radio and television channels.

Iran’s morality police briefly arrested Tataloo in 2013 on charges of cooperating with foreign satellite stations.

The singer, who had largely kept his distance from political issues, shocked fans in the summer of 2015 when he recorded a video onboard an Iranian warship with a group of servicemen marching behind him:

The music video clip, titled Nuclear Energy, features English-language posters such as Peaceful Nuclear Energy For Everyone, Has Iran Ever Invaded a Country? and Don’t Let the Media Fool You.

“This is our absolute right — to have an armed Persian Gulf,” Tataloo sings in Farsi in the video, which was released with English subtitles.

The clip was released the day before a landmark agreement promising Iran relief from international sanctions in exchange for curbs to its nuclear program was finalized on July 14, 2015.. The video was widely seen as an effort by the Iranian establishment to use the rapper to get its message out to young people.

On social media, Tataloo has also praised the supreme leader and voiced support for the Islamic hijab for women.

“This kid is innocent. He hasn’t taught us corruption and immorality. He has actually taught us to respect senior leaders of the country, such as yourself,” an Instagram user pleaded with Khamenei.

Despite the pro-regime music video and comments, however, Tataloo has never been granted an official license to perform.

Iranian Twitter user @aalpaaydin sarcastically wrote that “the first time when he was arrested he sang the Nuclear Energy, the second time around he’ll become a reciter of the Koran when he’s freed.”