A Sin to Confess

By on February 17, 2016

   

Confess [album]Every day that I wake, I speak my mind freely. Some would say that perhaps I take it too far. I give little thought to how my words may affect other people, and I do not give much thought to the vulgarities that I use on a consistent basis. It has always been my nature to live without a filter, as I like to say. Until a few days ago, I always took that liberty for granted. The arbitrary borders drawn around me centuries ago have afforded me the opportunity to say whatever I like. Unfortunately, there are many other people living in borders drawn centuries ago that do not enjoy those same liberties. Two gentlemen from a band named Confess happen to reside in the wrong arbitrary lines.

Confess is a heavy metal band. Much like their counterparts from around the world, their music can be abrasive to some. The music they create may sound more like noise to others. The lyrical content may not sit well with all that hear the words. Also, like much of their brethren in the metal genre, they have worked hard to pave their own way. Through independent labels, including a label they created; they have released two full length studio albums, one extended play recording, and three independent singles. In most countries, that effort would be applauded and, in the long run, more than likely be rewarded. But unfortunately for the men from Confess, they happen to live in Iran.

On November 10, 2015, Nikan Khosravi and Arash Ilkhani were arrested for doing what they love. They did not rape, murder or steal. They did not even j-walk or chew gum. They made music. In the eyes of the Iranian government, and more specifically, the “Intllengante unit of Seppah-e Pasdaran of the Islamic Republic of Iran,” that is worthy of the following charges: Advertising against the system, running an illegal underground record label, playing rock n roll style music, writing anti-religious, atheistic and political music, granting interviews with forbidden foreign radio stations, and blasphemy. That is a lot to take in. Consider that. Who is your favorite musician? Taylor Swift? Kanye West? Metallica? Could you imagine living in a place where their music and opinions could get them arrested on six separate charges?

Sadly, the story does not end there. Not even close. After being detained, both Nikan and Arash were held in solitary confinement for the duration of their imprisonment. No one knows how they were treated. In Iranian prisons, it is common for torture and mind control procedures to be administered for extended periods of time. I am sure they would have told the world of their treatment, but the Iranian government has confiscated both their Facebook accounts and personal email accounts. They have literally been cut off from the outside world. All that is known at the current time is, they were released on February 5, 2016 and are awaiting a trial date. They have obtained legal counsel, but how reliable their representation is remains to be seen. If a band can be arrested for lyrics, what are the possible repercussions for a lawyer that stands up to the same government?

All of these facts lead to the most troubling aspect of this story. It is the single fact that compelled me to write this article, and to a further extent, take up this cause. The crime of blasphemy is punishable by death in Iran. Death! In the United States, people can slaughter a family of four in their home and not be sentenced to death. In Iran, if you mention God (or Allah) without praising him, it’s the gallows for you.

While researching this project, I have reached in several directions to find out the likelihood of their execution and if anyone else is willing to take up their cause. My first contacts were criminal lawyers in Tehran. Of the five I emailed, only one responded. The marketing manager at that firm apologized for the plight of the members of Confess, but conveniently mentioned that he could continue to help for a small fee of $200/hr. My questions must have been lost in translation. I was not seeking legal counsel for them. I was simply on a fact finding mission. I did not bother emailing back to find out what their discounted consulting fee was.

After getting no answers from Iranian law firms, I turned to the organization I had every intention of involving in the first place: Amnesty International. No group has had more success helping the international community than Amnesty. They have liberated political prisoners and fought for human rights around the globe. They may not win every fight, but their success rate speaks for itself. At this very moment, as I write this line, they are waiting for this article to hit their desks to evaluate the situation. They did explain that in situations such as this, it is possible that the best action may be no action at all. With a government like Iran’s, poking the bear is not always the best idea. So the whole story has yet to be told at time of publication.

There are other organizations out there that I have reached out to, and others that are trying to muster support. Humans of New York does great work spotlighting human rights violations. I have reached out to their site owner, but I have not heard back yet. A website called www.change.org has a petition that can be signed upon visiting their page. The metal community has published countless articles informing its fans of the impending fate of Nikan and Arash. Each of these outlets are great places to visit to get information, but more importantly, to make your voice heard. Share stories on Facebook. Tell friends that take pride in being socially active. For every person you tell, they will tell ten. Word spreads like wildfire. In this case, I hope to put that wildfire squarely under the seat of Iranian judges.

The next time you are listening to your favorite artist and they say something objectionable, consider how lucky you are to live in a place where they will not be put to death for it. Consider how lucky you are to live in a place where only your actions, and not your words, can have your freedom stripped from you. As you contemplate how truly blessed we are to have the freedoms we enjoy, remember Confess. Remember that their fate, and more importantly their lives, will be determined by how egregious a judge finds blasphemy. To me, that is a sin.

If you are curious what it takes to face a death sentence in Iran, check out the link below.

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