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Artist Profile

Mehdi and Hossein Rajabian


Status: Conditional Release

Iranian artists Hossein Rajabian and Mehdi Rajabian, 2016. 

UPDATE: Mehdi Rajabian will release an album with artists from 12 MENA countries with SONY in 2019. Here is his latest interview.

Mehdi and Hossein Rajabian represent a new generation of Iranian artists, stretching their muscles and reaching to new heights. Mehdi’s work is steeped in the history of Iran and the work of Persian masters. His most recent album “History of Iran Narrated by Setar”—for which he served as musician, composer, and producer—draws influences from traditional music all across Iran. His brother’s work as a filmmaker and playwright is equally inspiring. Hossein’s 2013 feature film “The Upside-down Triangle” is a commentary on the Iranian laws governing women’s right to divorce. Along with their friend, Yousef Emadi, the Rajabian brothers co-founded the underground music-sharing website Barg Music in 2007, which for several years gave Iranian musicians, especially those whose work was deemed controversial or censored, a place to share their music and connect with others.

The three were arrested by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard in October 2013 and charged with distributing unlicensed music, much of which was considered “offensive,” through Barg Music.

At the time, Hossein was already facing criticism over his controversial film The Upside-down Triangle, which was in production. Following their arrest both Hossein’s film and Mehdi’s album were confiscated by the state, and Barq Music was shut down, stripping the brothers of their work.

According to Amnesty International, the three were held for 18 days at an unknown location, where they endured beatings and electric shocks before being transferred to Evin Prison, northwest of Tehran. Interrogations continued there and the three were forced to confess. During this time, Hossein began to experience seizures.

The Rajabian brothers and Emadi were released after two months in solitary confinement. More than a year later, in May 2015, they were summoned before the 21st branch of the Revolutionary Court. Despite pleading that their forced confessions were made under duress, all three were found guilty of “insulting Islamic sanctities,” “propaganda against the state,” and “illegal audio-visual activities,” among other charges. The three did not have access to a lawyer during their interrogations or the trial, which lasted only minutes.

Mehdi, Hossein, and Yousef were sentenced to six years in prison and a 20 million IRR fine (about $6,000). In February 2016, their case went before an appeals court, and again the three were denied the right to legal representation. The court upheld the fine but commuted their sentence to three years in prison and a three-year suspended sentence. The Rajabian brothers began serving their sentence on June 5, 2016, at Evin Prison. Emadi has yet to be imprisoned.

Mehdi suffers from multiple medical conditions that require specialized care and medication. Before his detention, he was diagnosed with suspected multiple sclerosis (MS) and recommended medication and further diagnostic tests. But for the first two months of his detention, Mehdi was denied proper medical treatment for his condition and was barred from taking temporary medical leave, causing his health to deteriorate. Hossein is suffering from kidney problems and worsening seizures.

In September 2016, Mehdi and Hossein began their first hunger strike to protest the prison’s refusal to give them adequate medical care, as well as its decision to separate the two brothers. According to the Center for Human Rights in Iran, Mehdi had been transferred to the non-political prisoner’s ward, where he faced beatings and harassment from fellow inmates. The brothers started another joint hunger strike in October, which ended one month later when Mehdi was granted temporary medical leave due to severe malnourishment and other health issues connected with the hunger strike. Hossein was denied medical assistance at that time.

The brothers’ health issues have continued, and another medical furlough was granted in March 2017. They returned to prison on April 6, 2017, to continue serving out their sentences. On June 22, 2017, they were temporarily released on bail pending review of their final appeal.

By Tom Speaker, April 2017.


Trailer, The Upside down Triangle, Hossein Rajabian

Lines, Hossein Rajabian 

Some redundant word in the dictionary, Hossein Rajabian 

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