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Hundreds Of Dervishes Given Harsh Sentences

Iranian female dervishes imprisoned in Iran and subjected to harsh treatment, including beatings, June 2018
Iranian female dervishes imprisoned in Iran and subjected to harsh treatment, including beatings, June 2018

Tehran’s prosecutor Jafari Dolatabad says verdicts have been issued against 258 Iranian dervishes of the Gonabadi order, state-run news agency IRNA reported July 17.

Ten dervishes of the same order had earlier been sentenced to “69 years in prison, 444 lashes, and fourteen years of exile,” according to a website close to the dervish religious order, Majzooban-i Noor (Enchanted by Light).

Dolatabadi described the condemned dervishes, who are adherents to a minority Sufi Muslim faith, as the “elements of last February’s turmoil,” a reference to several days of protests by dervishes in February in Tehran that saw hundreds arrested and at least five dead.

Enchanted By Light has also reported that 46 dervishes of the Gonabadi order had been sentenced to 171 years.

Furthermore, a dervishes’ rights activist, Ms. Fa’iza Abdipour, tweeted, “23 dervishes have been sentenced to exile, lashes and a total of 119 years behind bars.”

Protest gathering of Gonabadi dervishes in Tehran, February 19, 2018.
Protest gathering of Gonabadi dervishes in Tehran, February 19, 2018.

The condemned dervishes were all charged with “action against national security, disturbing public peace and order, and ignoring police orders.”

The International Federation of Human Rights Societies has described the trial of dervishes as “a mockery of justice” shrouded in “cover-ups” and “a blatant violation of international principles and standards.”

Female dervishes have been punished especially harshly.

Four female dervishes, Dr. Nazila Nouri, Avisha Jalaleddin, Shima Entesari, and Sima Entesari were found guilty of “assembly and collusion against national security” by Branch 26 of the Revolutionary Court in Tehran in early July 2018, Sufi former lawyer, Mostafa Daneshjoo tweeted July 3.

The New York based Center For Human Rights In Iran, CHRI, says it has learned that ten men and an unknown number of women dervishes have been refusing food for weeks to protest their detention and the denial of due process in their cases.

The men are among an estimated 300 Sufis currently held at the GTP prison 20 miles south of Tehran.The women are are being held in Qarchak Prison in the city of Varamin, also south of Tehran.

The hunger strikers in GTP are Mohsen Azizi, Zafarali Moghimi, Mohammad Bagher Moghimi, Ali Jamshidi, Hossein Rahimi, Mostafa Shirazian, Nematollah Riahi, Mohammad Ali Karami, Ahmad Barakouhi, and Mehdi Mahdavifar.

The detained dervishes are currently being tried in groups by Branch 15 of the Revolutionary Court presided over by Judge Abolqasem Salavati, and Branch 26 presided over by Judge Masha-ollah Ahmadzadeh.

Both judges are notorious for issuing harsh sentences in political cases, CHRI has maintained.

“So far, verdicts have been issued against 60 of them,” Niloufar Dowlatshah, the wife of hunger striker Mohsen Azizi, told CHRI on June 11. “The sentences include multiple years in prison, flogging, travel bans and exile.”

“All the dervishes have been charged with ‘disturbing public order’ and ‘assembly and collusion against national security,’” she added. “Some of them have also been charged with carrying different kinds of weapons.”

Sufi dervishes belonging to the Gonabadi order assembled in Tehran February 19 to prevent security and intelligence forces from erecting a checkpoint near the home of their spiritual leader, 91-year-old Nourali Tabandeh.

Police special units supported by plainclothesmen stormed the assembly and battered dozens of dervishes.

While suffering physically, many of the detainees were taken to prisons and kept in unbearable conditions in solitary confinement, according social media reports and images. The detained dervishes were tried behind closed doors without access to lawyers.

Furthermore, despite widespread international protests, 51-year old dervish Mohammad Reza Salas was hanged on June 18. Salas was accused of driving a bus over three policemen and killing them in the heat of clashes between security forces and dervish protesters.