Risking Death for Heavy Metal: Iran’s Confess on Prison, Fleeing the Country + Pissing Off the Government
Iranian band Confess have been thrown in solitary confinement, faced the death penalty, had their personal bank accounts frozen by the government, paid tens of thousands of dollars in bail money and fled their homeland to escape persecution… and they still won’t give up on metal. Confess’ story is one of unwavering dedication to free expression and resistance against tyranny. Frontman Nikan ’Siyanor’ Khosravi recently reached out to Loudwire so he could tell the band's story.
In November 2015, Khosravi and fellow Confess member Arash ‘Chemical’ Ilkhani were arrested by Iran’s Revolutionary Guard on charges of blasphemy; advertising against the system; forming and running an illegal and underground label in the satanic metal and rock style; writing anti-religious, atheistic, political and anarchistic lyrics; and interviewing with forbidden radio stations. The duo were imprisoned for a month and Khosravi says 10 of those days were spent in solitary.
“My biggest fear in life was something like prison,” Khosravi says. “The idea of getting locked up in a place, that you can't do anything, that they will tell you to do whatever they want you to do. They told us, ‘You guys can make bail,’ but my family came and they didn't accept bail. They wanted to play games, but after some time, about a month, they accepted the bail, so we were released from Evin Prison and we couldn't leave town.”
Bail for Khosravi and Ilkhani was a staggering $30,000 each. Khosravi’s parents used their house as collateral not just to raise money for his freedom, but Ilkhani’s as well. “My family is really there for me,” the Confess frontman says with pride. “The day that I got into prison, maybe a lot of parents would say, 'This is a disgrace,' but my father said, ‘I’m proud of my son. Maybe I do not understand his music fully, but I believe in him and I always have, and I will always support him.’ I'm a lucky one for that.”
The Iranian judicial system is complex, as both Islamic law (Sharia) and civil law are practiced within the same system. Due to Iran’s blasphemy laws, Confess were originally facing the death penalty for their music, but Khosravi and Ilkhani escaped the gallows narrowly — a feeling Khosravi calls “exhilarating” despite being “exhausted” by the legal process. Khosravi says the song “Thorn Within” is one of the main reasons Confess were initially arrested, but the lyrical details ultimately saved their lives.
Confess were found guilty of blasphemy in District Court, but dodged capital punishment since they insulted God, not the prophet Muhammad. Khosravi explains the difference: “If you insult the Prophet you will get executed, because he's dead and he can't defend himself. But if you blaspheme God and question His existence, He can forgive you," Khosravi describes the Iranian system. "That was why we didn't get executed."
The bandmates spent the next two years objecting to the charges brought against them, with Khosravi receiving death threats and even being kicked out of university during his final semester. Though Confess were spared from execution, the two defendants were ultimately sentenced to six years in prison for “Blasphemy, forming a Satanic musical band, writing blasphemous lyrics, advertising against the system, insulting the costume of Ayatollahs and having forbidden movies with lurid scenes.”
Ilkhani is currently appealing the decision from Iran, but Khosravi chose to flea the country for neighboring Turkey, leaving his family and life behind. The musician hired a human trafficker, paying to be snuck over the Iranian boarder. “I met a guy who was the friend of one of my father's friends. He knows some people from military services who was working there, and with some calls, they introduced me to him,” Confess’ frontman details.
“It's kind of 'mafia,' the way they're doing things. It took about five to six days. [I escaped with] two other guys who were total strangers, they were protestors, political people. They brought us to a small town at the Turkey border. Then by bus, we took a 12 hour ride to Istanbul.”
Currently safe, but hiding at a secret location in Turkey, Khosravi knows he can’t return to Iran without being arrested and serving his six-year prison sentence. He has submitted an emigration request to a UN refugee agency, but must wait until January 25, 2021 for his interview. Now being financially supported by his family due to employment restrictions in Turkey, the musician is writing a book to tell his story, hoping to find a publisher once it’s completed.
A number of rock and metal’s biggest musicians have supported Confess, empathizing with the band’s plight. Khosravi says he’s spoken to Corey Taylor, Marty Friedman, All That Remains’ Phil Labonte and even Eminem. “Once I was talking with [Lamb of God’s] Randy Blythe and I said to him, ‘You know man, we're kind of the same. You didn't do a felony, which was murder, and you got arrested in Prague, but I did something which was my music, and I got arrested in Iran.’ So he could understand that, the feeling that we’ve both been through. It was very satisfying for us, after all that bullshit that happened.”
Many in Khosravi’s position would have considered quitting music, but he’s only getting started. “We want to get a record deal,” Confess’ mainman boldly states. “We're working on the ideas that I was writing during the time of leaving my country and prison. I wrote 17 songs, I started demoing them here, five of them. I'm starting to write lyrics. I have a lot of ideas, as you can imagine. I'm talking about so many political things that maybe will make the government even angrier.”
Check out more music from Confess at their official Soundcloud profile.
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