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Why Iranian Sufis Do Not Believe in Tehran’s ‘New Diplomacy’

1:34 PM, Jan 6, 2014 • By STEPHEN SCHWARTZ
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In early December, Majzooban Noor (The Alluring Light), the Gonabadi-Nimatullahi internet platform managed by IOPHRI, issued a report in English detailing violations of the rights of Sufis during the first 100 days of Rouhani’s administration. That period has been described by Rouhani supporters as one of “hope and prudence,” especially because it seemed to promise an opening to America.

As Majzooban Noor noted, “Rouhani repeatedly said during his campaign that ‘all the political prisoners should be released.’ He also said on several occasions that he wanted a change ‘in favor of free speech and media freedom.’ ”

After Rouhani was sworn in, the Iranian state arrested “10 more journalists and bloggers… 10 others have been sentenced to a combined total of 72 years in prison, and three newspapers have been closed or forced to suspend publishing under pressure from the authorities,” according to Majzooban Noor.

The Majzooban Noor Sufi News Agency was subjected to repetitive cyber-attacks – a specialty of the Iranian rulers – through September and October.

On October 19, 2013, after Rouhani have served as president for three months, 31 political prisoners held in section 350 of Tehran’s infamous Evin Prison issued a statement denouncing the authorities for illegal actions against lawyers kept in the “Gonabadi Sufi” section of the lockup. The signatories expressed their worry about the physical condition of Hamid Reza Moradi, the director of the Majzooban Noor website, and Mostafa Daneshjou. They and other leading Gonabadis have been found guilty of creating their website to subvert national security, assail the regime, insult Ayatollah Khamenei, and disturb public order.

On December 10, 2013, Majzooban Noor warned that Hamid Moradi and Daneshjou were “in urgent need of specialized medical care” and faced a “life threatening” situation. On December 1, Tehran public security officers had surrounded the Shohada-e Tajrish hospital and attempted to have the two men discharged from the facility, placing them in handcuffs and shackles. An effort to move them to the Tehran Heart Center had been blocked by a Tehran “hanging judge” who specializes in anti-Sufi verdicts, Abulghasem Salavati.

Hamid Moradi, in addition to serving a 10-and-a-half year penal term, has suffered a serious infection of the foot, which may require amputation, after torture by Iranian officials. He is also afflicted by illnesses including arteriosclerosis and cardiovascular diseases, as well as lumbar disc damage. Mostafa Daneshjou, a lawyer and member of the website’s board, was handed a seven year prison sentence, and is a pulmonary patient.

Under Rouhani, three Gonabadi adherents, residents of Kavar county in Iran’s southern Fars province, have been ordered into permanent internal deportation by judges in Shiraz, the capital of Fars. Branch 2 of the Shiraz Revolutionary Court announced the punishment of the three Sufis, Hamid-Reza Arayesh, Kazem Dehghan and Mohammad-Ali Shamshirzan, convicting all of them of participation in seditious protests, “waging war against God,” and shipping illegal weapons. The Kavar case emerged from a violent confrontation in 2011 that led to the death of one Sufi and injury to three more, attacked by the Basij militia and their plainclothes police accomplices.

In August 2013, with Rouhani as president, a suit against two preachers, Mohammad Reza Shahbazi and Alireza Ghaemi, blaming them for agitation that led to the Kavar clash, was delayed when Shahbazi failed to appear in court. Shahbazi and Ghaemi had travelled from the theological center of Qom to carry out their homicidal campaign. The action against the two clerics was filed by Gonabadi lawyers Saleh Moradi and Kasra Nouri; the latter is also a website editor.

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