Cologne -based rapper Najafi has drawn the wrath of Shiite Muslims after publishing a song that appeared to make fun of the 10th imam. Following a fatwa by an Iranian ayatollah, he has received death threats, and there is a $100,000 bounty on his head. Now he is under police protection but insists he will keep making music.
Last Friday, Najafi was under police protection in an undisclosed location in Germany. Officials at the Interior Ministry of the western state of North Rhine-Westphalia said tersely that the situation is seen as "very serious." Three days earlier, the musician had gone to the police in Cologne and filed a criminal complaint against the grand ayatollah, for incitement to commit murder. The police launched an investigation and advised Najafi to go into hiding overnight. What followed was a telephone marathon among various police and intelligence agencies discussing how serious the perceived threat was, always with the same outcome: that Najafi needed personal protection immediately.
"At first I thought it was nonsense. I couldn't believe it. Only when I saw the $100,000 (€77,000) bounty on my head on the Internet did I truly understand that this was serious," he says. One can tell by his voice how stunned he is.
The song that has turned his life into a nightmare has been making the rounds among young people in Iran for weeks. It's being secretly passed on by those who had pinned their hopes on the green movement three years ago, hopes for an end to the regime and an opening to the West. When those hopes were dashed, all that these people had left was the underground culture