The situation of the Gonabadi Dervishes, UN Human Rights Council Geneva
"Thank you for giving me the opportunity to speak on behalf of the International Organization to Preserve Human Rights in Iran. I am a Western woman who is living in a free and democratic country. I have freedom of thought, freedom of speech, freedom of assembly and freedom of religion and the liberty to develop myself the way I like.
And just because I am living in a free country, it is my conviction that it is important to stand up for the rights of the people of Iran who don’t have this liberty. We are no islands living isolated from each other. On the contrary, we are all connected.
As long as there is oppression and injustice, there can be no stability, no harmony, nor peace in the world. And therefore, the basic rights of the oppressed ones in other parts of the world such as Iran are an issue that also concerns me living here in the West.
The people of Iran are living in fear. They are controlled by their regime in every little facet of their lives. Iran seems to be one huge prison. The brutal human rights violations and the rate of executions are alarming and the regime is now creating a reign of terror by public hangings, public floggings and public amputations of limbs.
All these atrocities have been done under the name of Islam. The regime officials in Iran claim they respect human rights but human rights based on Islam. However, they misuse Islam to suppress their people, especially women and citizens with other convictions and beliefs. As a consequence people in Europe and other parts of the world become angry against Islam and believe that Islam is a religion based on violence.
Under the name of Islam no one can ever transgress the values of Human Rights. There is only one Human Rights charter, which has to be respected by every nation in the world. All people all over the world are entitled to the same universal rights, dignity and respect. We are all equal. Human rights are universal rights.
Our engagement is not only for Iran, it is for humanity. It is a battle against fanaticism and religious fascism.
The Iranian regime is very afraid of the international opinion. When a lot of international attention is given to their actions they suddenly change parts of their plans. Therefore, the help of the free world is not only important but also necessary.
The International Organization to Preserve Human Rights in Iran(IOPHRI) is standing up for the rights of all Iranian citizens, but today I would like to focus on the situation of the Gonabadi dervishes and the campaign of the religious establishment to damage them and to eradicate Sufism.
Since the revolution of 1979, which brought Iran’s conservative Shiite clerics to power, Shariah is the basis for all laws in the country. They deny religious minorities within Islam such as Sufis any rights in the constitution. Sufis give a different interpretation to Islam based on love and tolerance. They refuse to subject to the radical ideology of the Islamic ideologues heading the system of Velayat-e-faghi. This infuriates the religious establishment who believe Sufis form a danger for their power.
The attacks on the Sufis have intensified since 2005 when president Ahmadinejad took office for his first round.
Sufis have faced arrest, been sentenced to lashings, or been forced to pledge not to attend Sufi ceremonies. Places of worship and gathering houses have been destroyed. Private houses were raided and personal belongings confiscated. The government is blacklisting Sufis from employment and preventing their children from gaining an education. Lawyers who defended the Sufis were removed from the judiciary or imprisoned themselves. Journalists who wrote about their complaints were fired.
Traditionalist Grand Ayatollahs such as Safi Golpaigani, Makarem Shirazi and Fazel Lankarani issued fatwa’s against the Sufis calling them heretical and as we all know, apostasy can lead to the death sentence.
In November 2007, another Grand Ayatollah, Nouri Hamedani issued a fatwa in answer to questions of a group of religious students in Qom.
This fatwa was published by Shabestan-Press in Qom on 21 November 2007.
In this fatwa, Hamedani claimed: ‘there is no room for Sufism in Islam. He quoted the sixth Imam of the Shiite as saying "the Sufis are our enemies, and the people who have any interest to the Sufis are our enemies as well". This fatwa furthermore stated: One of the difficulties of the Muslim-societies during the history were these Sufis, and the important Ulema of Islam (the Mullahs) did a lot of fights against this sect, and did a lot of efforts to eliminate and destroy their roots…Muslims should fight these persons and do the Jihad against them …’
These fatwa’s and pro-governmental websites waging an ongoing smear campaign create a hostile environment for the dervishes.
On 10th November 2007, a place of worship (hosseinieh) of the Gonabadi dervishes in Boroujerd was set on fire and bulldozed. More than 180 followers of the order in Boroujerd were arrested and 80 were injured.
A year earlier, in February 2006, a similar attack took place in Qom. According to official reports, 1200 followers of the order were arrested and hundreds wounded.
On 19th February 2009, the tomb of the 19th century poet Naser Ali was destroyed. The mausoleum was a protected heritage site used by Sufis since 2002. The Sufi meeting house next to the mausoleum was destroyed as well.
In a reaction to all the destructions, persecutions and suppression, tens of thousands of Gonabadi dervishes gathered in front of Tehran Parliament on 21st February 2009, to demand an end of the attacks on their metaphysical movement.
850 Sufis were arrested and many were held for months in Evin Prison, where they were tortured. Since 2009, every year on 21st February, this day is remembered as ‘Dervish Day’.
This year on Dervish Day, 3000 dervishes gathered in front of Evin prison to demand the release of the imprisoned Sufis. 350 were arrested, some were mistreated, but all of them were released in the evening. The government granted them their main demand: a brief family visit for seven Gonabadi lawyers and internet personnel, who are being held in solitary confinement in Evin Prison since 13 January of this year.
Of the 7 currently in Evin, 4 have serious health problems caused by their imprisonment.
Hamidreza Moradi may require amputation of a foot because of blood circulation obstruction caused by torture and beatings.
Mostafa Daneshjou is a pulmonary disease victim. His lung capacity has diminished with 40 percent during his jail term.
Reza Entesari was physically mutilated by the security forces.
Amir Eslami is a heart patient. On February 12, he was taken briefly to a hospital from prison having suffered two cardiac traumas behind bars.
Two other Gonabadi dervishes Saleh Moradi and Kasra Nouri are currently in Shiraz Adel Abad prison, but they have not yet received a definitive sentence till now. It seems that, after 18 months, their case is still under investigation in the Revolutionary Court of Shiraz.
Both dervishes have launched a hunger strike to protest the illegal transfer of the seven Gonabadi dervishes to solitary confinement in Evin prison. They required prison officials to transfer back the seven dervishes to the general ward of Evin and called attention to their poor health status but unfortunately their request has not been answered yet. They have been in hunger strike for more than 55 days now.
The Sufis are resisting in a brave and peaceful way. They know that their resistance will increase the pressure on them. But they will continue to fight against the injustice even if their resistance would cost them their lives. – Thank you!"
Published by http://www.mehriran.de
The situation of the Gonabadi Dervishes, UN Human Rights Council Geneva