Arrest of Gonabadi dervishes continues in Kavar

Ongoing persecution of Sufis

Iranian authorities have arrested another Gonabadi dervish in Fars Province, sources say.

According to Majzoon Noor, a site affiliated with the Nematollah Gonabadi Sufi Order, Mohammad Ali Shamshirzan was arrested on Saturday morning in Kavar, a town in Fars Province. The arrest took place at Shamshirzan’s workplace.

Rights groups believe the rounding up of Gonabadi dervishes in Kavar is part of an ongoing campaign of harassment and intimidation against members of the Sufi order there. Arrests are generally carried out in a violent manner and detainees taken to the Intelligence Ministry’s detention centre in Shiraz often suffer beatings and abuse.

Up until now, seventeen Gonabadi dervishes in Kavar have been charged with “Corruption on earth,” Moharebeh (“Enmity against God”) and carrying illegal weapons. The first two charges are punishable by death.

Also, Mostafa Daneshjou, an imprisoned lawyer representing the Gonabadi Dervishes, was recently hospitalised following a respiratory problems. Daneshjou has also been suffering from a kidney condition in recent weeks.

Daneshjou was imprisoned on 18 May 2011 to serve out a seven-month prison sentence in Sari Prison for propaganda-related charges. Yet despite having served his jail-term, he was transferred to Evin prison’s Ward 350 on 29 October.

In recent years, the Gonabadi dervishes have increasingly become the target of persecution, with many members of the community being subjected to attacks, arrests and lengthy jail terms.

Prior to his house arrest in February 2011, Green Movement leader Mahdi Karroubi repeatedly expressed his support for Sufi rights in the country. 

In a recent interview with the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran, a spokesperson for Gonabadi Nematollahi Dervishes said that “dervishes have traditionally voted for those who have defended their rights.”

“Because in the past Mr. Karroubi repeatedly defended the rights of dervishes, during the [2009] presidential election the dervishes voted for him,” Seyed Mostafa Azmayesh added.

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