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Imprisoned Iranian Dervishes Say They Will Continue Hunger Strike Till Death


Followers of Nour-Ali Tabandeh, the leader of Gonabadi Dervishes, near the residence of their leader before clashes with security forces in 2017

Seventy-two imprisoned Gonabadi Dervishes in Iran who are on hunger strike in protest to the restraints imposed on Nour-Ali Tabandeh, the leader of the Gonabadi Sufi order, have said that they are determined to continue their hunger strike.

The Dervishes began their hunger strike two weeks ago after the news of the ninety-two-year-old Tabandeh's refusal of food and medical care in protest to the escalation of pressures on the Dervish community were published. The Dervish leader has been confined to his house for the past two years and restrictions imposed on visitations and his activities.

Excerpts of a statement issued by the Dervishes, on hunger strike in Evin and Fashafuyeh prisons, have been published online by rights activists.

The statement says: "We are 72 Dervishes who in the past eleven days have been abstaining from food and medical care and will continue our strike to the end hoping that it can ease the pressure on the Dervish community."

In their statement the Dervishes have protested the pressures imposed on Tabandeh. They also say that although the government claims that it is not hostile to the Dervish order,the detention of hundreds of Dervishes after clashes in front of their leader's house in northern Tehran on 20 February 2018 was not "the last of the security and intelligence bodies' pressures on Dr Tabandeh and the Dervish community."

The statement also cites the refusal of the authorities to allow the reopening of a Dervish community center and prayer hall, the frequent suspicious and contradictory statements issued in their leader's name, efforts made to isolate him and keep his followers away and actions taken by the security and intelligence bodies to quash their community.

On 19 and 20 February 2018 during an incident that has come to be known as the Seventh Golestan Street Incident more than 400 followers of the Dervish order were beaten and arrested in front of their leader's house in an encounter with security, intelligence, military, and paramilitary forces.

In a Twitter post Alireza Roshan, an online dervish activist, has said: "The Dervishes say they have never had any meat and only seen bones in their stews in the two years they have been in prison but now large pieces of meat as well as fruit is being served to them to increase their inclination to end their hunger strike."

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