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Iranian Sufis Defy Tehran Dictatorship

3:29 PM, Feb 27, 2013 • By STEPHEN SCHWARTZ
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This year’s commemoration at Evin began when the Sufis arrived with their baggage and proclaimed their willingness to be locked up alongside their colleagues. The tribute to the Sufis in custody, past and present, was marred by further repression. The Revolutionary Guard Corps (Pasdaran) arrested 350 Sufis, mistreating some of them, yet released them in the evening. The government granted them their main demand: family visits for seven jailed Gonabadi lawyers and Internet personnel, who had been held in solitary confinement in Evin Prison’s Ward 209 for 37 days. The group were among 60 Gonabadi Sufis detained by the government in 2011.

The meetings with relatives—limited to parents and spouses of the Sufi prisoners—were carried out in tense conditions, lasting only minutes. Security officers supervising the encounters insulted the prisoners and their loved ones, and otherwise interfered in their communication. 

Of the seven currently in Evin, four must contend with health crises caused by their imprisonment. Hamidreza Moradi, webmaster for the Gonabadi website, 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 by 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.

The other three Sufi attorneys in Evin are Omid Behrouzi, Afshin Karampour, and Farshid Yadollahi. In addition, two Gonabadi Sufis, Saleh Moradi and Kasra Nouri, held illegally in Adel Abad prison in the city of Shiraz for eight months, have conducted a hunger strike in solidarity with those incarcerated in Evin. The strike continues, after 40 days.

The Gonabadi site, Majzooban Noor (The Alluring Light), claims that the action by the two Sufis in jail in Shiraz has forced the regime to transfer the seven Sufis out of solitary confinement in Evin.

Maryam Shirini, wife of Sufi legal advocate Amir Eslami, told Iranian media that the “Evin seven” will be tried a fourth time, beginning on March 11. Shirini recalled that when she was allowed to see her husband, “His face was swollen and yellow colored with a bruise around his eyes. . . . And even he was not aware of their [next] court date. . . . [N]o one knew the date of their trial, and mentioning the name of the court was treated as an offense!”

The group has been charged with “acting against national security and insulting the Leadership and spreading lies.” The indictment of lawyer Farshid Yadollahi, he said, was based on his providing an interview to the U.S.-financed Iranian dissident broadcasting station, Radio Farda, in 2011.

Yadollahi commented to the Sufi website then, “A specific policy governs Iran restricting freedom and human rights to the interests of the rulers. . . . [E]very citizen who, intentionally or unintentionally, dissents from the system of governance, is considered in opposition.”

In an open letter released last week by the International Organization for the Preservation of Human Rights in Iran (IOPHRI), the Sufis who journeyed to Evin Prison accused the Tehran government of blacklisting Sufis from employment and preventing their children from gaining an education. Lawyers who defended the Sufis were removed from the judiciary and journalists who wrote about their complaints were fired.

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