Iran Protests: Authorities Keeping Families of Detained Gonabadi Dervishes in the Dark
Relatives Sleeping Outside Evin Prison Demanding Answers
The families of several members of a Muslim Sufi order in Iran known as the Gonabadi Dervishes are still seeking answers to basic questions about loved ones who were detained in the recent anti-government protests, the Center for Human Rights in Iran (CHRI) has learned.
“Kasra [Nouri] phoned around 9 p.m. [on January 5, 2018] and said he was on hunger strike in solitary confinement,” his mother, Shokoufeh Yadollahi, told CHRI on January 6. “We had no chance to ask any questions but we told him we are in front of Evin Prison. We don’t know what kind of condition he is in. He did not have information about the other detainees.”
“The families of detained protesters come and sit outside Evin Prison for hours hoping to get some news about their children and then they go home,” she added. “But the families of detained dervishes sleep in front of the prison.”
Continued Yadollahi: “They haven’t gone home since Saturday [December 30]. Still, no one is giving them any answers. We don’t know what the authorities’ objectives are. Our children were not even in the protests.”
The detainees—university students Kasra Nouri, Mohammad Sharifi Moghaddam, Faezeh Abdipour, Mohammad Reza Darvishi and Zafarali Moghimi—all work as citizen journalists for Majzooban Noor, the official website of the Gonabadi Dervishes.
The detainees’ families, who have been threatened with arrest for gathering outside the prison, are demanding to be told why their loved ones are being held without charge.
The five were arrested on December 30, 2017, while visiting fellow mystic Hamidreza Moradi at Day General Hospital in Tehran. They are being held in Evin Prison’s Ward 209, which is under the control of the Intelligence Ministry.
Since December 28, 25 people have been killed and thousands arrested in numerous cities across Iran for protesting against the government’s economic policies and repressive measures against the citizenry.
“Mohammad [Sharifi Moghaddam] contacted his father by phone on Thursday night [January 4] and said he was healthy but nothing more,” his mother, Vahid Parastesh, told CHRI.
She continued: “We show up in front of Evin Prison every day but no one lets us in or gives us a proper answer. Our children were beaten and arrested inside a hospital as they were visiting a friend. They were not taking part in the protests. We want to know what they are accused of. Why have they been arrested? Is it because they are dervishes?”
The Islamic Republic views alternative belief systems, especially those seeking converts, as a threat to the prevailing Muslim Shia ruling political establishment and has imprisoned Gonabadi Dervishes as part of an ongoing persecution campaign.
Moghaddam’s fiancé, Faezeh Abdipour, has not contacted her family since the detention, according to Parastesh.
Darvishi’s brother, who did not want to publicize his first name, told CHRI that the authorities have only pressured the families to leave the prison’s grounds.
“We have no information,” he said. “He has not contacted us and the officials won’t let us inside the prison to find out what’s going on. We have been told he’s not there but we know he is. They say things to try to make us go away.”
University sources have so far confirmed that security forces have arrested at least 43 university students, but a senior reformist lawmaker said she was aware of many more.
“According to a list that was given to me, about 90 students have been arrested throughout the country in the past few days,” Parvaneh Salahshouri, the leader of the women’s faction in Parliament, told the Jame’e No news website on January 5.