Heavy metal musicians Nikan Khosravi and Arash Ilkhani sentenced, exiled for blasphemy

Heavy metal musicians and founders of the band Confess, Khosravi and Ilkhani were arrested, placed in solitary confinement, made to pay about $30,000 USD in bail, and sentenced to 12 and 6 years' imprisonment, respectively. The two escaped to Norway.

Nikan Khosravi & Arash Ilkhani
Nov 10, 2015
Also Known As:
Siyanor (Nikan), Chemical (Arash)
Imprisoned, Sentenced to Imprisonment, Exile
Accused of:
Singer, lead guitarist (Nikan); bassist, DJ (Arash)
Known For:

founding and playing in Confess, controversial in Iran

Nikan Khosravi and Arash Ilkhani are Iranian heavy metal musicians who play in the band Confess. Until 2017, they did so in Iran itself, which, because of laws prohibiting their “Satanic” style of music, was an enormous risk. This risk of state retribution became reality in 2014, when, almost immediately after they released a new album on Nikan’s record label, Iranian authorities arrested them.

The charges leveled against Nikan and Arash encompassed "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.”

In the ensuing ordeal, Nikan and Arash spent time in solitary confinement with their bail set at roughly $30,000 USD. It took a year before their trial finally occurred, in which they were found guilty but not sentenced to death.

“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. That was why we didn’t get executed.” - Nikan Khosravi

Afterward, as they navigated the appeals process, Nikan escaped to Turkey. Through the International Cities of Refuge Network, he eventually relocated to Harstad, Norway, where Arash later joined him.

Nikan and Arash are very good examples of how people who express themselves through the arts are soft targets for oppressive regimes. The main source of their persecution are their words, their ideas, that in a country like [Norway] would seem mainstream.” - International Cities of Refuge Network program director Elisabeth Dyvik

Both men have now been granted asylum by the Norwegian government. Harstad, being a city of refuge for musicians specifically, has proven a good fit for them.

Since their escape, an Iranian court has handed down additional sentences for them—including 6 years’ imprisonment for Arash and 12 years’ imprisonment plus 74 lashes for Nikan—which Iran is now powerless to enforce.


Iran is a theocratic Islamic republic that derives its legal principles from Islamic religious law. As such, blasphemy and apostasy can be and are punished with death. Although there is no codified apostasy law in the penal code, this does not prevent its punishment in accordance with Islamic legal principles, and blasphemy is codified as a capital offense within the penal code. Iran has a poor track record on human rights, and if these “offenses” do not result in death, they may result in imprisonment or torture. Those who stand accused of either must also fear reprisal from non-state actors, though documented incidents of such reprisals are not as prominent as in some other countries.

Cases in Iran
Yousef Mehrdad and Sadrollah Fazeli Zare executed on blasphemy and apostasy charges
Soheil Arabi sentenced to death for blasphemous Facebook posts
Ali Akbar Roz arrested, imprisoned, and sentenced to death for blasphemy, other charges
Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani and wife Fatemeh Pasandideh accused of apostasy, sentenced to death, imprisoned
Former general Abdolreza Gharabat executed for apostasy after claiming connection with Hidden Imam
Spiritualist Mohammad Ali Taheri accused of spreading corruption, sentenced to death
Iranian-Kurdish activist Ehsan Fattahian executed for several offenses, including apostasy
Pastor Mehdi Dibaj accused of apostasy, sentenced to death, imprisoned, murdered
Ex-Ayatollah Kazemeini Boroujerdi sentenced to death, imprisoned, tortured for "enmity against God"
Psychoanalyst Mohsen Amir Aslani imprisoned 8 years, executed for crimes including blasphemy
Heavy metal musicians Nikan Khosravi and Arash Ilkhani sentenced, exiled for blasphemy
Iranian Zoroastrians Pouria and Dariush Shahpari imprisoned for blasphemy
Rouhollah Tavana sentenced to death, held in solitary confinement for blaspheming in private
Canadian permanent resident Saeed Malekpour sentenced to death for blasphemy while visiting Iran
21-year-old Sina Dehghan sentenced to death for blasphemous text messages
Father of three Yusuf Mehrdad and one other imprisoned, sentenced to death for blasphemy