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Top Sunni Cleric Speaks Out Against Travel Ban

Molavi Abdul-Hamid is banned from traveling outside Sistan and Baluchestan Province, although he is allowed to visit Tehran.

The most influential Sunni cleric in Iran, Molavi Abdul-Hamid Ismaeelzahi, has once again called on the Iranian authorities to respect the constitution and end discrimination against minorities.

Molavi Abdul-Hamid, also known as “Mawlana” (Our Master) among Sunnis, said on May 4 that banning Iranian Sunni clergy from traveling to other Sunni-populated regions of the country is explicitly against the Iranian Constitution.

High-ranking Sunni clergies in Iran’s Sunni populated provinces including Kurdistan, as well as Sistan and Baluchistan have recently complained about a travel ban imposed on them by security officials.

Delivering his Friday Prayer sermons 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.

Previously, intelligence agents had barred the Sunni cleric from attending funerals in Khaf and Taybad in Razavi Khorasan Province, and Rameshk, in the province of Kerman.

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 Hassan Rouhani who is considered to be a relatively moderate official.

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, 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.

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 governmental posts. Meanwhile, followers of Baha’ism are even deprived of many basic rights, including the right to higher education.