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Dervishes Convicted To More Than 1,000 Years In Prison

The spiritual leader of Iran's Gonabadi Sufi dervishes, Nour Ali Tabandeh, who has been under house arrest since February.

More than 200 Gonabadi dervishes have been sentenced to more than 1000 years of prison time, the Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA) reports.

According to HRANA, 201 Gonabadi Sufis have been sentenced to 1080 years and two months prison, 5995 lashes, 46 years ban from leaving Iran and 72 years deprivation from civic activities.

On February 16, for the second time in less than two weeks, security and intelligence agents swarmed Pasdaran Avenue in northern Tehran, where the residence of Gonabadi dervish spiritual leader, Nour Ali Tabandeh is located.

Nourali Tabandeh, the spiritual leader of Gonabadi Dervishes in Iran.
Nourali Tabandeh, the spiritual leader of Gonabadi Dervishes in Iran.

Gonabadi dervishes rushed to the scene to force the agents to leave.

After 7 a.m. on February 19, clashes broke out between the supporters of 92-year old Tabandeh and security and Baseej (the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps’ militia) forces.

Police special units supported by plainclothesmen attacked the protesters and battered dozens of dervishes.

Nearly five hundred dervishes were arrested and HRANA has listed the names of 382 of them. Footage of dervishes with head injuries and broken teeth and jaws were widely circulated on social media. Three policemen and a member of paramilitary Baseej were also killed.

A 51-year old man, Mohammad Reza Salas, was hanged last June allegedly for driving a bus over the security and Baseej militia forces, killing three of them.

Salas insisted that at the time of the bloody clashes he had not even been near the scene.

His attorney, Zainab Taheri also insisted on her client's innocence and London based Amnesty International (AI) said "Execution of Salas amounts to killing justice".

Meanwhile, HRANA has published the names of 108 Gonabadi dervishes whose legal cases are shrouded in mystery and there is no information available about them.

In the meantime, Nour Ali Tabandeh's residence in northern Tehran is still surrounded by the security forces and the 92-year old pivot of Gonabadi dervishes is under house arrest.

Furthermore, dozens of Sufi prisoners are being illegally held in a ward for drug-addicted prisoners in the Great Tehran Penitentiary (GTP), one of their relatives told the New York based Center for Human Rights in Iran (CHRI).

The source, who requested anonymity for security reasons, said a complaint by a group of the detainees’ families remains unanswered more than two months after it was filed.

According to Article 69 of Iran’s State Prisons Organization’s regulations: “All convicts, upon being admitted to walled prisons or rehabilitation centers, will be separated based on the type and duration of their sentence, prior record, character, morals and behavior, in accordance with decisions made by the Prisoners Classification Council.”

The families argue that the Sufi prisoners, who were arrested for attending protests, should be held in a ward for political prisoners to protect their safety.

“Ward 1’s capacity is for 100 prisoners but they’re holding 400 prisoners there,” the source told CHRI, adding, “Drugs are not allowed in but all kinds of pills are easily available.”

Dervishes are members of a Muslim (specifically Sufi) religious order who have taken vows of poverty and austerity. Dervishes first appeared in the 12th century; they were noted for their wild or ecstatic rituals and were known as dancing, whirling, or howling dervishes according to the practice of their order.

There are various orders of dervishes, almost all of which trace their origins to various Muslim saints and teachers, especially first Shi’ites’ Imam Ali bin Abi Talib. Dervishes spread into North Africa, Afghanistan, Balkans, Caucasus, India, Iran, Pakistan, Tajikistan and Turkey.