Prominent Iranian Musician Challenges Public Executions in New Music Video
Today the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran released the music video “Execution” by Okhtapus, featuring acclaimed Iranian singers Shahin Najafi and Majid Kazemi, which directly confronts the Iranian government’s routine practice of inhumane state executions.
Iran has the highest per-capita execution rate in the world and annually executes more people than almost any other country. It is one of very few countries to carry out public executions, and it has been censured by the United Nations for its routine practice of executing individuals convicted of crimes that do not meet minimum international standards for capital punishment.
With stark camera work and unflinching verse, Najafi and Kazemi address head on the cruelty of state executions in Iran. They sing of the plight of vulnerable individuals who are put to death despite the condemnation of human rights groups worldwide. They sing of the children who are brought to watch public executions in Iran as a routine form of group entertainment, and the corrupting effect this has on their developing humanity. They sing of the numerous societal problems in Iran that go unaddressed by the government—poverty, unemployment, and corruption—while the authorities resort to ever more aggressive execution policies. “Execution” is a searing call for the rejection of the Iranian government’s policies on capital punishment.
Najafi is a hugely popular singer in Iran. He chose to leave his homeland rather than submit to the state censorship in Iran that forces artists and musicians critical of the government to work underground or face harassment and imprisonment. He has continued his work in exile, maintaining a loyal audience of millions both inside and outside Iran. Kazemi is a gifted Iranian singer-songwriter and guitarist who also resides outside Iran.
Through this music video, the Campaign seeks to raise awareness inside Iran, particularly among the younger generation, of the inhumanity of the government’s capital punishment policies and the incompatibility of these policies with internationally accepted norms. Promoting a culture of human rights inside Iran, where such policies are questioned and repudiated, is a major goal of this work.
The “Execution” video is the latest in a series of projects the Campaign has launched which aim to reach a broader audience beyond the traditional human rights community by giving voice to cultural figures and transmitting human rights concerns through artistic means. In 2012, the Campaign began publishing weekly editorial cartoons on human rights themes by Iranian artists, and in 2013 published the groundbreaking collection of drawings and personal narratives by Iranian artists and activists, Sketches of Iran: A Glimpse from the Front Lines of Human Rights. Also in 2013, the Campaign began producing its hugely popular weekly Persian podcast, “Five in the Afternoon,” featuring renowned Iranian satirist Kambiz Hosseini. The podcast addresses human rights issues through the lens of political satire, and has had over 1.8 million downloads and listens on Soundcloud since its inception in January 2013.