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Iran Steps Up Threats To Sufis

4:50 PM, Aug 27, 2013 • By STEPHEN SCHWARTZ
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The title of Ferghe News, an Iran-based website, means “Cult News.” It is dedicated mainly to defaming Sufi Muslims. But Ferghe News, following the ideological posture of the Iranian clerical dictatorship, also condemns the Saudi-based Wahhabi sect (historically the most violent enemies of the Sufis), the Baha’is, never favored by Khomeinist Tehran, and “New Age” movements.


Ferghe News and its scandalmongering are anything but frivolous or trivial. They represent a malign use of the Internet to support the suppression of dissident Iranian Sufis and to gin up criminal charges against them. In a recent post, the site described indoctrination against Sufis as an element of the activities in “jihad training camps” at Azad University, in Khorramabad, capital of Lorestan province in western Iran.

Typical headlines in Ferghe News accuse Sufis of rape, murder, opium-smoking, corruption, serving as U.S. agents, affiliation with Freemasonry, and influence over the Green movement that emerged all too briefly to challenge the questionable results of the second election of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as Iranian president in 2009. (Masons are a conspiratorial hobgoblin for many Muslims. Sunnis blame them for undermining the Ottoman caliphate, and Shias accuse them of serving Britain against Persian interests more than a century ago.)

The online persecutor of the spiritual Sufis has assailed the two largest Sunni Sufi movements (known as tariqat or “pathways”), the Qadiris and Naqshbandis, and other such bodies. But Ferghe News reserves its worst denunciations for the Shia Gonabadi-Nimatullahi Sufis, the leading Sufi trend in Shia Iran and in the Iranian diaspora.

The Gonabadi-Nimatullahi group is named for the 15th-century poet Noorud’din Nimatullah Veli, whose verse is widely read and loved by Iranians. But the Gonabadi Sufis do not accept the theocratic doctrine of “governance by the jurisconsult,” invented by Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini to justify the monopoly on power by his disciples after the Islamic Revolution of 1979.

Western observers pick through the Iranian media looking for indications, however small, that Ahmadinejad’s successor as president, Hassan Rohani, will ameliorate Tehran’s confrontational posture toward the world. Meanwhile they ignore mountains of evidence of continued internal repression in the clerical state.

In July, seven Gonabadi webmasters and attorneys, confined in Iran’s infamous Evin Prison, were sentenced to more than 56 years in jail, with a prohibition on membership in political groups and media or Internet activities for five years after their presumed release. Their indictment employed the idiom of Feghe News, alleging they had “joined the anti-security cult of Sufism.” They were responsible for the Gonabadi website Majzooban Noor (The Alluring Light).

Two additional participants in Majzooban Noor, Alireza Roshan, who is a distinguished and internationally-recognized poet, and Mostafa Abdi, are held in Evin. Roshan was convicted of violating national security, with a one-year jail term, which was confirmed by an appeals court. Abdi’s case has not been settled.

In the meantime, a second group of four Gonabadis, held at Adel Abad prison in the southwest Iranian city of Shiraz, have been penalized by the local Revolutionary Court. Saleh Moradi, who led a hunger strike in the Shiraz prison from January to April this year to protest the solitary confinement of the Evin inmates, received three years in prison and three years in internal exile in Hormozgan province, on the southern Iranian coast.

According to Human Rights Watch, the remaining three Shiraz victims were Farzaneh Nouri, who received two years in jail and three years of exile in Khuzestan province, on the Iranian frontier with Iraq Behzad Nouri, given the same two years of incarceration with three years of exile in Bushehr province, between Khuzestan and Hormozgan; and Farzad Darvish, punished by one year behind bars and three years of internal exile in the province of Sistan-Baluchistan on the border with Pakistan.

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