Tataloo was taken into custody in Istanbul’s Faith district after being flagged as a wanted person, according to police. The 31-year-old artist posted a photo of his hands bound by handcuffs, writing: “They said the Iranian government wants me.”
According to the New York Times, the rapper is being held at a detention facility for undocumented immigrants in eastern Istanbul, near one of the city’s airports. The artist reportedly moved to Istanbul last year in order to further his career. According to posts on Instagram, he had been issued a UK visa and was preparing to travel to perform in London in February before he was detained.
The Guardian reports that an Iranian police spokesperson told the semi-official news agency Mehr that Tataloo was wanted on drug-related charges, but music producer MarG Lotfabadi, who was with the rapper when he was detained, told the Times the police did not mention that when he was detained, only citing the notice by Interpol.
Tataloo has been one of Iran’s most famous rappers for a decade, and at one point boasted around four million followers on Instagram. His rise to fame came once he began criticizing the Iranian government’s human rights record.
He’s had several run-ins with the police because of his tattoos, his partying lifestyle and his outspoken attitude, which he often interweaves into his music.
A change.org petition calling for his release has garnered more than 140,000 signatures in 24 hours.
“Under the human rights report in 2019, Iranian courts, and particularly the revolutionary courts, do not provide fair trials and use confessions likely obtained under torture as evidence in court,” the petition reads.
Tataloo’s fans, who call themselves “Tatalees,” have taken to Twitter with the hashtag #FreeTataloo.
“They take away our freedom because they know exactly what the f—k were capable of with the leash off. #freetataloo #freeiran #peaceinthemiddleeast,” one fan tweeted.
Another wrote: “This is against human rights. Please let all the world hear us. He needs our support,” while another tweeted: “What happens for him it’s not fair at all. If the Turkey government sends him back to Iran, his life will be in a serious danger.”
Tataloo’s Instagram page is full of “Free Tataloo” imagery with various publications tagged. One of the photos says he “was arrested for absolutely no reason, and it became obvious that the Islamic Republic of Iran instructed Turkey to detain this artist and send him right back to Iran.”