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Body of Dervish ‘Beaten During Interrogation’ Buried Overnight

Iranian Dervish Mohammad Raji, who died in custody, was buried at night to avoid the presence of the public.

The body of Mohammad Raji, a member of the Gonabadi dervish community who died while in police custody was buried in Aligudarz, Lorestan province, Monday night, the dervishes’ official website Majzooban reported.

The report says that security forces and a small number of Raji’s family members were present at the burial.

Iranian security forces had reportedly ordered the body to be buried at night March 4, despite protests from his family.

Mohammad Raji, a member of the Gonabadi dervish community, a religious minority group in Iran, was arrested during clashes in February between dervishes and police. Majzooban, the official website representing dervishes in Iran, alleges Raji had been beaten up and tortured during interrogation while in police custody.

Clashes between dervishes and security forces erupted over several days around February 18-20 when dervishes began protesting outside a police station over the arrest of one of the members of their community. Later, more clashes were reported outside the home of the leader of the Gonabadi dervish faith in Iran,Nour Ali Tabandeh, where dervishes had staged sit-ins to protect him.

Raji’s daughter Tayebeh told Radio Farda March 5 that security forces had refused her father’s body to the family unless they agreed to have him buried at night without a ceremony. She said security forces brought her father’s body to his birthplace, the city of Aligudarz in the Lorestan province, but did not deliver it to the family because they refused to bury him at night.

Tayebeh Raji said a member of the security forces told her that her father had been “hit.” She says her father was beaten up during the arrest and was in serious condition when he was taken away by police.

The Majzooban website alleges Raji died as a result of this and further beatings during his interrogation.

Tayebeh Raji says she and her family hold security forces accountable for her father’s death because he died while in custody after being held for 15 days, during which time his family were never notified as to his whereabouts.

Raji’s son, Mohammad Ali, who was also arrested during clashes with the police, is still in jail.

Reports say that Mohammad Raji was a former Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps commander, and was wounded during the war with Iraq in the 1980s.

According to the Majzooban website, Raji left the IRGC in 2004 and has been farming in Aligudarz ever since.

Tayebeh Raji said a “difference of opinion” had forced her father to retire from the IRGC in 2004.

"My father’s mentality didn’t fit,” she said. “He would say that he fought during the war to defend his country and for his beliefs, and that he didn't want any post or privileges."

Iranian authorities have not commented on Raji’s death.

Judiciary spokesman Gholam Hossein Ejei said last month that in addition to several police officers killed February 20 during clashes between police and dervishes, "one individual" had died.

"I don’t know if he was among rioters or not," Ejei was quoted by Iranian media as saying February 25.

Meanwhile, Tehran’s hardline Prosecutor Abbas Jafari Dolatabadi on Tuesday March 6 denied Raji’s death in custody, saying that he was killed in the clashes with the police.

Videos posted on social media show dervishes being beaten by police during the protests on February 20.

The Gonabadi dervishes, who are regarded with suspicion by Iran’s clerical establishment, have come under increased pressure in recent years.