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Security Forces Besieging Residence of Dervishes Leader Leads To Clashes

The aftermath of clashes between Gonabadi dervishes and various security forces in Tehran. February, 4, 2018
The aftermath of clashes between Gonabadi dervishes and various security forces in Tehran. February, 4, 2018

For the second time in less than two weeks, plainclothesmen affiliated with the intelligence organs have swarmed a street in Tehran, where the leader of Gonabadi dervishes, Nour Ali Tabandeh’s residence is located.

A website affiliated with dervishes of Gonabadi denomination, said, the intelligence and security agents surrounded Dr. Nour Ali Tabandeh’s residence on Saturday night in Pasdaran district, north of the capital, Tehran.

Many Gonabadi dervishes rushed to the location to force the plainclothesmen and intelligence agents out, Majzooban-e Noor website reported.

After 7:00 am on Sunday morning, clashes took place between the supporters of Tabandeh and security and Baseej forces.

Images and footages circulated on social media show a motorbike and a damaged vehicle left in the area. One video clip shows dervishes setting fire to one or more motorbikes used by security personnel.

Kasra Nouri, a journalist and Majzooban-i Nour’s reporter, told Radio Farda, agents affiliated with the police, Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) and its Baseej force, stormed the area at 7 am Sunday and battered the dervishes in front of Dr. Tabandeh’s residence.

The dervishes, according Kasra Nouri, had no option other than resist, calling for their fellows for help.

Soon, there were fierce clashes between the two sides, forcing regular police and other authorities, including the district Police commander, IRGC General Massoud Mossadegh to personally interfere.

The commander, according to Kasra Nouri, promised to legally follow-up the reasons behind the deployment of intelligence agents at the area.

“We are particularly worried about the presence of plainclothesmen and IRGC’s intelligence and security agents surrounding Dr. Tabandeh’s residence,” dervishes insisted.

However, nothing was done to disperse the plainclothesmen and IRGC agents. Therefore, dervishes affirmed that they will stay there until those agents and “rogue elements” are withdrawn.

It is not yet clear whether Tabandeh, who used to live near London, was present at his residence in Tehran when the clashes broke out.

However, a taped message by Tabandeh was circulated in social media on Sunday, February 4, calling for peace and order.

Lambasting what he described as “provocative behavior”, the 90-year old leader of Gonabadi dervishes has noted in his voice message, “Lots of work has been done for keeping peace in the country, though at the expense of getting beaten on our heads; yet, the country is calm, anyway. Do not disturb it [the peace] in vain. There is nobody threatening my life or my house. They want a show off. This is a wrong approach.”

Meanwhile, based on the latest reports, tension around Tabandeh's house dissipated late on Sunday night, as security and plainclothes agents were withdrawn.

Tabandeh, a France educated lawyer, was appointed as the Qutb (Pivot) of Gonabadi dervishes replacing his father, Mahboob Ali Shah who died in 1996.

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.