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Iran Steps Up Threats To Sufis

4:50 PM, Aug 27, 2013 • By STEPHEN SCHWARTZ
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These four Shiraz Gonabadis were charged with “forming an anti-state terrorist group,” “participation in demonstrations intended to overthrow the government,” “hatred of God”—a vague term for non-conformist activities, but which may be treated as a capital offense in Iran—and possession of illegal weapons.

Five more Gonabadis are still locked up in Shiraz: Kasra Nouri, Seyed Ebrahim Bahrami, Mohammad-Ali Sadeghi, Mohammad-Ali Dehghan, and Mohsen Esmaili. Kasra Nouri had joined Saleh Moradi in the solidarity hunger strike with the Evin captives. Kasra Nouri was found guilty in April on charges of involvement with the Gonabadi website, with a prison term of four years and four months.

 On August 23, Kasra Nouri was briefly taken to a prison infirmary for treatment of pulmonary infection and fever but was given some non-specific medicine and immediately returned to the cells.

This series of cases emerged from clashes around Shiraz in 2011, involving state officials and the Basij, the irregular militia of the dictatorship, on one side, and Gonabadi members on the other. In those events, one Sufi, Vahid Banani, was killed, and three more were wounded by gunfire. The Iranian authorities conducted a general roundup of Gonabadi Sufis in the Shiraz region, in which as many as 100 people were arrested, tortured, or put on trial, and the houses and businesses of Gonabadi Sufis were destroyed. The Majzooban Noor personnel were then detained in Tehran and Shiraz.

The main confrontation at that time occurred in Kavar, a Shiraz region village. It had been provoked by the anti-Sufi preaching of a fanatical cleric, Alireza Shahbazi, who had traveled through the Shiraz district distributing a CD calling on local Muslims to attack the Sufis. The indomitable Gonabadi activists Saleh Moradi and Kasra Nouri have been joined by an academic, Gholam-Reza Shirzadi, in a legal complaint against Shahbazi, for libeling the Sufis and inciting violence against them. On August 20, Shahbazi was supposed to appear at a hearing of the Clerical Court at Kavar, but Shahbazi did not show up, although he was defended in his absence. The proceeding against him will be transferred to the theological center at Qom, a city where the Gonabadi Sufis have been persecuted brutally, and it is unlikely they will get a fair hearing against Shahbazi.

Early in July, 35 non-Sufi Iranian political prisoners issued a statement against the persecution of the “Evin Seven” Gonabadis. The signatories alleged that the prosecutors, ignoring that the Sufis have lived in a “harmonious, peaceful and stable” way for centuries in Iran, revealed a lack of knowledge and understanding of Sufi history in the country.

As if the seriousness of the campaign against the Gonabadis were not already obvious, Ferghe News has added a new item to the list of charges: that the Sufis are drug dealers, which is punishable by execution in Iran. At the beginning of August, the International Organization for the Preservation of Human Rights in Iran (IOPHRI) warned from Brussels that Ferghe News asserts that people join the Gonabadi order to enrich themselves by trafficking in narcotics, and that this explains the growth of the Gonabadi movement.

In its Annual Report on the Death Penalty in Iran for 2012, the Iran Human Rights (IHR) organization, based in Norway, accumulated statistics on 580 executions last year, of which 294 were reported officially and 286 by unofficial informants. In addition, 325 executions were carried out at Vakilabad prison near Mashhad in northeastern Iran, but only 85 of them could be investigated by IHR. The rights monitor states that 76 percent of the executions they analyzed were based on drug cases, and challenges the correctness of the investigations that led to them.

The Gonabadi-Nimatullahi Sufis of Iran face accelerating attempts at their annihilation. So far, the election of Hassan Rohani to the country’s presidency has had no mitigating effect on their severe and unjust mistreatment.

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