December 20, 2022 Inquiry & Analysis Series No. 1673

In Iran, Kurdish Rapper Sentenced To Death Based On False Evidence

December 20, 2022 | By Himdad Mustafa*
Iran | Inquiry & Analysis Series No. 1673


Saman Teimur Seydi, also known as Saman Yasin, is a 24-year-old Kurdish-Iranian rapper, songwriter, and composer from Kermashan who lives in Tehran with his family. He is among more than 60 Iranians sentenced to death so far by the Islamic Republic of Iran.[1]

On his personal Instagram page, Yasin expressed support for the nationwide uprising against the murder of Jina (Mahsa) Amini by publishing several posts and stories. He criticized the Iranian authorities through his political rap songs, speaking out against oppression, inequality, and corruption.

It is worth noting that Yasin is an adherent of Yarsanism, a non-Islamic Kurdish religious sect numbering around two million Kurds. Yarsanism is not recognized by the Islamic Republic; its members are doubly oppressed, both as Kurds and as Yarsanis. Over the past four decades, the regime has harshly persecuted them, executing and imprisoning many of its members.[2] For this reason, many Kurdish activists assert that the rapper's Kurdish-Yarsani identity was one of the main reasons for his imprisonment by the government.

*Update: On December 20, Yasin attempted to commit suicide by taking pills due to his harsh detention conditions in prison in Karaj; he was taken to hospital to have his stomach pumped, regained consciousness, and was returned to prison.[3]

Saman's Arrest

Yasin was not arrested at the scene of protests; he was violently abducted by regime security forces at the home of a friend in Tehran at 4:00 or 5:00 AM on October 2, 2022, three days after his birthday. He was taken to Fashafouyeh Prison, also known as The Greater Tehran Central Penitentiary, and then transferred to Tehran's notorious Evin Prison on October 10.[4]

His whereabouts were not known to his family until televised court proceedings aired on October 29, nearly a month after his arrest. On November 9, Yasin launched a hunger strike to protest being denied access to his family and the uncertainty of his situation in Evin. On the second day of his hunger strike, the Security Prosecutor's Office based in Tehran's Evin Prison contacted his family and they managed to meet with him. On November 24 2022, he met with his family again, for the last time since his arrest.[5]

In late November, Yasin was transferred to Rajaei Shahr Prison in the city of Karaj, in Alborz province, along with Mohsen Shakeri, who was hanged December 8, and Mohammed Broghani; he is now kept in solitary confinement. After Shakeri's execution, concerns about the execution of Yasin and Broghani have increased.[6]

Forced Confession Under Torture

Human rights groups say Yasin was tortured in detention to extract a confession.[7] According to Kurdistan Human Rights Network (KHRN), "Saman Yasin has been subjected to severe physical and mental torture to make a televised confession. Being kept in a very cold place for three days, severely beaten, and thrown from a height are among the tortures that this Kurdish artist endured during this period. Reportedly, as a result of this torture, he was forced to make a confession on TV."[8]

Amnesty Iran said on December 12 that "authorities relied on torture-tainted 'confessions' to find Saman Seydi (Yasin) guilty of firing a pistol three times into the air in protests which they said amounts to 'moharebeh' ["war against God"]." The organization added: "Amnesty International has received information that the authorities subjected Saman Seydi to torture and other ill-treatment to extract forced 'confessions' including through severe beatings and forced exposure to extreme cold." The organization called on Iranian authorities to "immediately halt any plans to execute Saman Seydi (Yasin) and quash the death sentence against him. His torture allegations must be criminally investigated and those responsible must be held accountable."[9]

A Sham Trial

On October 29, Iranian state news agencies reported that a court hearing had been held for several arrested protesters, among them Saman Yasin, at the 15th branch of the Islamic Revolutionary Court, presided over by Abolqasem Salavati and without any family members or attorneys present. On the same day, a video of Yasin's forced confession was released by state media.

During the hearing, Salavati accused Yasin of attempting to kill security forces members, alleging that he appears in a video firing a gun three times into the air. Salavati, known as the "Execution Judge" and "Judge of Death" because he has sentenced hundreds to execution at Evin prison, further accused Yasin of damaging public property, singing antirevolutionary songs, and supporting the "riots."

Mizan News Agency, the official media outlet of the Iranian judiciary, announced on October 29 that Saman Seydi (Yasin) had been charged with "war against God" (moharebeh) and "assembly and collusion with the intention of acting against the security of the country."[10]

Although the news of Yasin's death sentence was published by news agencies and human rights organizations, it has not been officially announced by Iranian state media due to the sensitivity of this case – that is, his Kurdish background. The regime fears that a public announcement of his death sentence would only spark more anti-regime protests in Iranian Kurdistan.

However, on December 8, the Norway-based Hengaw Organization for Human Rights reported that Saman Yasin had been sentenced to death by Branch 15 of the Islamic Revolutionary Court in Tehran and that the sentence had been officially announced to the family. It added that Yasin's sudden transfer from Evin to Rajaei Shahr Prison and the possibility of his imminent execution have caused his family concern.[11]

Saman Yasin during the October 29 hearing session (Source: Mizan News Agency).

Death Sentence Based On False Evidence

According to Yasin's defense attorney Mohammad Esmaeilbeigi, Yasin was convicted and sentenced based on two videos, both published by the state broadcaster IRIB (Islamic Republic Radio and TV). One video showed someone firing into the air, and the other shows someone setting a dumpster on fire.

Although it is not clear in the video who the armed person is, what weapon he is carrying, and where the shot is aimed, Judge Abolghasem Salavati insisted that it was Yasin was armed.[12]

Esmaeilbeigi told the ILNA news agency on December 13, 2022[13] that there are "ambiguities" and "contradictions" in Yasin's case. He said he was only allowed to register as his attorney on December 8, after the sentence had already been handed down, and that the case was now in appeal. He expressed his hope that the Islamic Republic Supreme Court will allow him to read the full case and present his evidence to exonerate his client.

On December 8, Esmaeilbeigi tweeted that he had not been given permission to read the case's file and asserted that the documents used by the judiciary against Yasin had nothing to do with his client. He emphasized that the shooting video in which Yasin was allegedly identified was blurred and ambiguous, and that it cannot be proven that it showed his client. There was no way, he said, that Yasin could be identified in the video, especially if one knew him personally. [14]

He said: "The judge states that Saman Yasin has 11 criminal records, but not only is this accusation denied by the family and the client, the court itself initially introduced him as having no criminal record."[15]

Although he was appointed by Yasin's family as his lawyer, Esmaeilbeigi told the Shargh daily newspaper on December 15[16] that the Islamic Revolutionary Court Branch 15 did not allow him to represent Yasin and denied him access to the case's file, saying that it was "classified." He said, "Saman had some kind of a lawyer who had tried to defend him, but even that person did not have access to the full extent of the case," adding: "We do not know whether [this lawyer] was chosen by the regime or was court appointed."

Pointing out the inconsistencies in the video of Yasin's forced confession that was aired on television, he said: "Saman Yasin clearly declares that he did not have any weapons and it was only a shotgun that he fired in a quiet ally." He continued: "But in the video footage of the shooting scene, you can see the person firing in the air; agents are standing in front of him." Noting other contradictions, he said: "Yasin stated in the televised confessions that he threw the gun out of the car window, but the video shows that the person is running away on foot, and there are no cars... The person shown in the video is unrecognizable because he wears a mask and his face is not seen. Clearly, therefore, it cannot be proven that it shows Saman Yasin." 

Esmaeilbeigi questioned the "authenticity" of the video saying that "it should be reviewed by experts and confirmed whether it is real or not."

Also according to Esmaeilbeigi, in the second video, which shows a man whom the regime claims is Saman Yasin pulling a dumpster and setting it on fire, Yasin's confession "is heard merged with the video." However, he noted, "the hands of the person seen in the video are not tattooed, while Saman Yasin's hands are covered with tattoos."[17]

Stressing that his client had done nothing to terrorize anyone and had not killed anyone, Esmaeilbeigi said: "Saman has not hurt anyone, [and] neither in the video footage nor in any other cases did he take any actions targeting the lives of people and security officers."[18]

Saman Yasin's Parents' Plea To The International Community To Save Their Son

On his Instagram account, Saman's father Teimur Seydi asked people to help save his son through stories and posts. In a video released on November 4, Teimur said, "I protest the detention of my son," and called on the regime to release him, asserting "my son has neither hurt nor killed anyone."[19]

In a video released last week, Yasin's mother pleaded to Iranians and the international community to take action to save him before "the noose is around his neck." She added: "Where in the world someone's life is taken for setting a bin on fire?"[20]


Kurdish and human rights organizations have warned about Yasin's imminent execution.

A petition to save Yasin's life has been signed by thousands of people calling for his release. The petition calls Yasin's situation "terrible" and says that he was denied due process of law: "One person acts as judge, jury, and prosecutor in cases; the accused do not have the opportunity to use lawyers."[21]

German parliament member Carlos Kasper said that he had undertaken political sponsorship for Yasin, stating: "I am committed to the release of Saman Yasin and have asked the Iranian ambassador in Germany to influence the Iranian regime. Saman Yasin must not die."[22]

On December 14, the Germany's writers' association PEN Berlin accepted Saman Yasin and Toomaj Salehi as honorary members and campaigned for their release. In a statement, it called on the Islamic Republic of Iran to "suspend the death penalty in Yasin's case and to drop the charges against Toomaj Salehi." Urging the German government "to do everything possible to save the lives of Toomaj Salehi and Saman Yasin," the statement read: "War against God (moharebeh) and corruption on earth (ifsad fil-arz) are charges for which people should no longer be allowed to die in the 21st century."[23]


Iranian journalist Saeed Hafezi tweeted this photo of Saman Yasin in police custody on November 3, writing: "This young man is neither a murderer nor a terrorist. He is Saman Yasin, an Iranian musician and rapper who was sentenced to death for participating in street protests. Be his voice."[24]

Yasin is seen holding his head in his hands during the first hearing session when the judge reads out the charges against him.[25]

In a video, Saman Yasin's mother pleads for help.[26]

Instagram post by Timur Seydi, Saman's father, stating: "My son Saman, when you were riding this bike I used to worry lest you fall off and get hurt. But I don't know what to do now with this situation and how I would continue with my life without you."[27]

* Himdad Mustafa is a Kurdish scholar and expert on Kurdish and Iranian affairs.


[2], January 31, 2021.

[3], December 21, 2022.

[4], December 13, 2022;, November 8, 2022.

[5], December 8, 2022.

[6], December 8, 2022.

[7], December 8, 2022;, December 15, 2022.

[8], November 26, 2022; , November 8, 2022.

[9] , December 12, 2022.

[10] , December 8, 2022.

[11], December 8, 2022.

[12] , December 10, 2022.

[13], December 13, 2022.  

[14], December 8, 2022.

[15], December 8, 2022.

[16], December 15, 2022.

[17] , December 8, 2022.


[19], accessed December 20, 2022.


[22], December 9, 2022.

[23] , December 13, 2022.

[24], November 3, 2022.

[25], November 5, 2022.

[27], November 7, 2022.

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