Dervishes in Gonabadi Order Summoned and Sentenced to Lashes, Prison, and Exile
A lawyer close to the case of dervishes from Gonabad described the status of those arrested for the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran. “On Wednesday, 13 April, eight dervishes by the names of Abdolreza Kashani, Shokrollah Hosseini, Alireza Abbasi, Ali Kashanifar, Mohammad Marvi, Nazarali Marvi, and Zafarali Moghimi, all of whom had been sentenced to five months in prison, 50 lashes, and one year’s exile on charges of ‘disrupting public order through assembly in front of Gonabad Justice Department and Prison,’ were arrested in coordinated and simultaneous operations in the towns of Beydokht, Gonabad, and Ghoochan, and were all transferred to Vakilabad Prison in Mashad,” he told the Campaign.
Also on Wednesday, 13 April, Nourali Tabandeh, leader of the Gonabadi Nematollahi order, was summoned by a Tehran investigative court on behalf of the Justice Department in Gonabad on charges of “threatening public hygiene through burial of deceased individuals inside Beydokht’s Soltani Cemetery.” On 17 April, Tabandeh’s lawyer, Gholamreza Harsini, appeared before the court, but judicial authorities insisted on Tabandeh’s appearance in order to inform him of his charges.
According to reports, hundreds of dervishes and followers of the Gonabadi order have gathered in Beydokht to show their support and solidarity to their leader, Nourali Tabandeh, and to voice their protest at the recent arrest of several Beydokht dervishes.
“High government authorities have not yet reacted to this issue, but local authorities’ reactions indicate threats against dervishes for their arrests and imprisonment and demolition of Beydokht’s Soltani Cemetery. On Tuesday, 20 April, a meeting was held for several hours inside the Gonabad Prosecutor’s Office in which the Prosecutor and Chief of Police, along with several lawyers representing the dervishes were present. The meeting ended after the Prosecutor, Zeinali, stated that charges raised against Mr. Tabandeh and the case raised against him…will be resolved within 72 hours. Despite the silence, order, and peaceful presence of the dervishes, after this meeting a large number of plainclothes forces, special forces, and Basij forces from different regions of the province were dispatched to Beydokht and surrounded Soltani Cemetery. Slowly over the next 24 hours, the town of Beydokht assumed a military and security atmosphere, to the point where local people and travelers’ comings and goings were strictly controlled by these forces. But suddenly, most of these forces were removed from the region and returned to military bases. On Saturday, 23 April, a group of lawyers representing the dervishes went to the Prosecutor’s Office in Gonabad and asked the prosecutor to keep his commitment to solve the Beydokht problems and issues. Despite earlier negotiations on 20 April, however, the prosecutor suddenly changed his position and threatened the dervishes with judicial action, destruction of the Beydokht Soltani Cemetery, and definite prosecution for Dr. Tabandeh, due to the US President Barack Obama’s Nowruz message in which he supported the dervishes,” the lawyer told the Campaign.
In issued statements, the dervishes explained that the summons for Dr. Nourali Tabandeh Majzoob Alishah, the leader of the order, and the demolition of Beydokht Soltani Cemetery, “the capital of spirituality and Sufism,” may appear to be minor to outsiders, but for the dervishes it is “unforgivable and impossible to ignore.” The dervishes vow to “resist these illegal actions at any cost.” “The dervishes also announced that they are not approaching the issue from a position of power, they do not wish to threaten anyone, they do not want to fight and confront, their view is of national solidarity and maintaining the unity of Muslim society, and in both words and actions they seek peace, tranquility, patience, and forgiveness,” the source told the Campaign.
“It is worth mentioning that upon pressure by security organizations, the town of Gonabad’s Health Network forbade burials of the deceased inside Beydokht Soltani Cemetery in March 2009. Since then, through reports by the Intelligence Office and complaints filed by the Health Network, family members of deceased individuals and the facility’s caretaker have been summoned to court and sentenced to prison. The Gonabadi Nematollahi Order’s leader is ultimately in charge of the endowed property,” the source added.