12 Years and 74 Lashes for Your Songs

So then the prosecutor, a priest that’s talking to you, says that what you sang is apostasy… And in that position you only have two options: You can do whatever it takes to save your life, or just say “Yeah, I did that.”

And we chose the second one.

Nikan Khosravi is an Iranian musician, and the founder and guitarist of the heavy metal band Confess. He and his bandmate Arash Ilkhani are now based in Norway, having been forced to escape the grip of the Iranian regime after being persecuted, prosecuted, and convicted for the supposed “blasphemy” of his songs.

Confess today (Photo: Camilla Norvoll)

Of course, Nikan and Arash are not alone in this struggle. Although every Iranian is, in one way or another, a victim of the oppression of the unelected Ayatollahs that rule the country, artists and dissidents have been (and continue to be) a favorite target. Leaving Iran might not even be enough to escape this oppression since, as Amnesty International noted last year,Iranian dissidents remain at risk worldwide without international action

The plight of the Iranian people can hardly be overstated. Iran’s infamous police forces (including the Revolutionary Guard, the morality police, and others) routinely torture prisoners (sometimes as official punishments), in direct contravention of international human rights law. Its courts are subservient to the will of the Ayatollahs, they have historically lacked any significant independence, and are frequently used as mere mouthpieces for the regime’s propaganda.

In this context, starting a metal band that openly sings against the lies of the regime, and which even questions the religious basis of Iranian society, is an incredibly risky move. Some might call it reckless, I call it brave.

Last year I met with Nikan to discuss his harrowing experiences in Iran, his new life in Norway, and what he learned from this ordeal. We also touch upon topics of the use of solitary confinement as torture, the relations between the West and the so-called “Muslim world”, and more. It was a very interesting conversation, so I’m sure you’ll enjoy it. You can watch the video of our chat in the video below.

A transcript of the interview (edited for clarity, and with LOTS of links and references for you to peruse) is available for subscribers only on our substack (and, don’t worry, you can cancel anytime).

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