Accessibility links

Breaking News

Group Of MPs Demand Lifting Travel Ban On Sunni Clergy

Molavi Abdol-Hamid Ismaeelzahi (L), a Sunni theologian and the spiritual leader of the Sunni community in Iran, in a meeting of Sunni clerics with president Rouhani, on December 11, 2016.

Tehran’s outspoken representative to Majles (Islamic Republic’s parliament) Mahmoud Sadeghi, along with twenty other legislators, has called upon the Intelligence Minister to lift the travel ban imposed on Iran’s most prominent Sunni clergyman.

Molavi Abdol-Hamid Ismaeelzahi and other high ranking Iranian Sunni clergy have repeatedly complained about a long travel ban imposed on them by the security and intelligence authorities.

According to state-run Iran Labor News Agency (ILNA), the MPs have reiterated in their official note that “While the country is facing foreign threats and needs to boost its national solidarity, what is the reason behind restricting Molavi Abdol-Hamid and imposing a travel ban on him?”

Reformist MP, Sadeghi has circulated a copy of the note on his Twitter account July 4, describing the restriction on Molavi Abdol-Hamid from travelling out of his constituency, the predominantly Sunni populated Sistan & Baluchestan province, southeast Iran, as “very bizarre and regretful”.

Outspoken member of Iranian parliament, Mahmoud Sadeghi, undated.
Outspoken member of Iranian parliament, Mahmoud Sadeghi, undated.

The MPs have also reiterated in their note that every individual is entitled to enjoy the right to freedom of movement.

Referring to Article 19 of the Islamic Republic’s Constitution, the legislators have argued, “All people of Iran, whatever ethnic group or tribe to which they belong, enjoy equal rights; color, race, language, and the like, do not bestow any privilege.”

Earlier on May 5, Molavi Abdol-Hamid had called upon the Islamic Republic’s authorities to “respect the Constitution” and end “discrimination against minorities”.

Delivering his Friday Prayer sermons on May 5 in the city of Zahedan in Sistan and Baluchestan Province, Molavi Abdul-Hamid insisted such security bans should be lifted. “According to the constitution, no organization has the right to ban an Iranian citizen from traveling to different parts of the country,” the Sunni Online website cited him as saying.

According to his official website, Molavi Abdul-Hamid is banned from traveling outside Sistan and Baluchestan Province, although he is allowed to visit Tehran. He first broke the news about the ban in October 2017.

In mid-April, the dean of Imam Bukhari Religious Sciences School (a Sunni seminary), Hassan Amini, also criticized restrictions imposed on Sunni clergy, saying the situation for them had worsened during the presidency of Hassan Rouhani who is considered to be relatively moderate.

Iranian president Hassan Rohani visiting Sisatan and Baluchistan Province in south east of Iran. Sunni religious leader Molavi Abdol-Hamid, greeting the president at airport, 15 April 2014.
Iranian president Hassan Rohani visiting Sisatan and Baluchistan Province in south east of Iran. Sunni religious leader Molavi Abdol-Hamid, greeting the president at airport, 15 April 2014.

This raises the question of who exactly makes major decisions for the Intelligence Ministry; Rouhani or other forces in the Islamic Republic.

Another prominent Sunni cleric, the Baluchi Sunnis’ Friday Prayer leader in Azadshahr, Mohammad Hussein Gorgij, also criticized the Rouhani administration for the travel ban.

Rouhani’s Intelligence Ministry banned Gorgij from traveling to Sistan and Baluchestan for a Sunni clergy graduation ceremony in Zahedan on April 12.

“Officials should not act according to their personal views. It is unfair to forbid your fellow countrymen from travelling around in their own country,” Gorgij said, adding that “Sunni clergy should be free to take part in such ceremonies; it strengthens national unity.”

Last August in an unprecedented move, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei remarked on the need to respect Sunnis’ rights.

“All elements of the Islamic Republic are duty-bound, in accordance with the religious teachings and the constitution, to refrain from allowing any discrimination and inequality among Iranians from any ethnicity, race or faith,” he said.

However, Molavi Abdol-Hamid has regretfully admitted that Khamenei’s comments have not been followed by any “tangible result”.

Sunnis are not the only religious minority in Iran suffering from what they have described as totally illegal and unjust discrimination. The followers of the other three officially recognized religions -- Zoroastrianism, Judaism, and Christianity -- are also deprived of the right to serve in high government posts. Meanwhile, followers of Baha’ism are even deprived of many basic rights, including the right to higher education.