Accessibility links

Breaking News

Sufi Dervishes Demand Answers About House Arrest Of Their Leader In Iran

Gonabadi darvish's Qotb, Nour Ali Tabandeh
Gonabadi darvish's Qotb, Nour Ali Tabandeh

In a “declaration” addressed to the authorities of the Islamic Republic a group of Gonabadi dervishes in Iran have demanded an official explanation concerning the house arrest of their elderly spiritual leader, Noor Ali Tabandeh.

Based on the Islamic Republic's law, a declaration is a "legal notice" used for demanding legal rights before presenting a petition.

The signatories to the "declaration" have called upon Iranian authorities to officially explain within a week the reason(s) for placing Noor Ali Tabandeh under house arrest and identify those responsible for it, a website affiliated with Gonabadi Sufi dervishes reported on October 24.

Gonabadi dervishes have argued that meeting Tabandeh is their absolute right and they will do so if a response is not received within a week.

Referring to different articles of the Islamic Republic's constitution, including the principle of "innocent until proven guilty", Sufis have insisted that receiving no response to their demands would mean that Tabandeh is "not legally under house arrest" and his followers may visit him without restriction.

Tabandeh, the 92-year old, France educated lawyer and spiritual pivot of Gonabadi dervishes has been practically under house arrest since late last February, when clashes broke out between his followers and security forces outside his house in northern Tehran.

Without directly using the term “house arrest,” the leader of the Gonabadi dervishes disclosed in March that he has been confined to his residence.

In a video message, Tabandeh said he hoped the restrictions imposed on him and other Gonabadi dervishes would soon be lifted.

Calling his followers the “faqir” (poor) and “soulmates,” Tabendeh assured them he is physically well and that they needn’t worry about his health.

“I cannot get out of the house, but I am free inside the residence,” he said in the video on March 6.

Meanwhile, several dervishes and their families, who had decided to celebrate their leader's birthday on October 12 and visit him, were stopped by the security and police forces surrounding Tabandeh's house.

Last February 16, plain-clothed officers affiliated with the intelligence organs had swarmed Pasdaran Avenue in northern Tehran, where Tabandeh’s residence is located.

Gonabadi dervishes rushed to the scene to protect their leader and a standoff ensued.

On February 19, clashes broke out between the supporters of Tabandeh and security and Baseej (the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps’ militia) forces.

Hundreds of dervishes were detained while many more were battered. Footage of dervishes with head injuries and broken teeth and jaws were widely circulated on social media. Three policemen and a member of paramilitary Baseej were also killed.

Tabandeh, in written statements attributed to him, called on his followers to exercise self-restraint, stay calm, and keep away from his residence.

Nevertheless, many dervishes had already come from across Iran and assembled near Tabandeh’s house to “defend” him and stop intelligence agents from erecting a checkpoint near their leader’s residence.

A Gonabadi dervish, Mohammad Reza Salas, was accused of running a bus over the security forces, killing three. Salas, who insisted that at the time of the bloody clashes he had not been even near the scene, was later tried, convicted and hanged.

Salas' attorney, Zainab Taheri also insisted on her client's innocence and London based Amnesty International (AI) said "Execution of Salas amounts to killing justice".

Ms. Taheri, for her part, was detained and days later released after disclosing that she had decided to publish "evidence" proving Salas' innocence.

Furthermore, 500 dervishes were arrested at the scene, 350 of them still behind bars and dozens sentenced to long jail terms.

Meanwhile, several human rights organizations, including Human Rights Watch (HRW) reported that security forces attacked dervish inmates in notorious penitentiary center, Fashafouyeh, when they held a sit-in to protest "inhumane" conditions in the prison.

These dervishes have since been kept in solitary confinement, while the whereabouts of eight of them, Reza and Sina Entessari, Mehdi Esskandari, Morteza Kangarloo, Amir and Kassra Nouri, Hossam Moeini and Mohammad Sharifi Moqaddam, is not known.

Another dervish detained during the clashes outside Tabandeh's house, Mohammad Raji, died while in custody. The Islamic judiciary authorities maintain that Raji died of injuries he suffered at the scene of the confrontation.