Interview with Dervishes’ Spokesperson: Clashes and Widespread Arrests of Gonabadi Dervishes
Following a violent confrontation between plainclothes forces and Gonabadi Dervishes in Kavar town of Fars Province in which shots were fired, the directors of Majzooban-e Noor, a website that reported on the group’s news, were arrested. The International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran spoke with Seyed Mostafa Azmayesh, the International Spokesperson for Gonabadi Nematollahi Dervishes and International Relations Director of The International Organisation to Protect Human Rights in Iran, about the current situation in Kavar.
Related Link (in Persian): Latest Report On The Situation With Gonabadi Dervishes in Kavar (IOPHRI website)
Campaign: Were the latest round of clashes limited to the town of Kavar in Fars Province?
No. The confrontations did not end in Kavar. Just on Sunday and Monday, they attempted to round up people related to the Gonabadi Dervishes’ news websites. They forcefully entered the homes of lawyers and managers of these websites. They arrested 15 people. The Governor of Kavar had asked for representatives from the Dervishes, or their lawyers, to talk with them and to end the debacle. When they showed up, they were arrested, too. Therefore this was more than cracking down on a small town. It appears to be an attack on all dervishes.
Campaign: Who are the people who are responsible for these arrests? What group or organization did this?
They are clearly affiliated with the seminary student Basij [paramilitary] members. They are a group of seminary student Basijis who are being trained as missionaries. They are being trained as missionaries by the Qom Seminary under the oversight of the Commission to Combat Emerging and Pseudo-Spiritual Beliefs. [They are being trained] by the Association of Qom Seminary Teachers, under the direction of Mohammad Yazdi and others, to go around and commit these acts.
Campaign: Have those arrested been able to contact their families? How many people were arrested?
No, they have not had any contact with their families. Overall, the number of those arrested in Kavar township exceeds sixty people. The people arrested in Tehran have been taken to an unknown location and no one has any information about them.
Campaign: Did the clashes cause any casualties?
Yes. Six people were injured when they were shot with bullets. They were transferred to a hospital. One of them was shot in the head. He is still alive and God willing, he will get better and be discharged from the hospital. But the doctors said he is in critical condition.
Campaign: What is the situation in Kavar right now?
The atmosphere is one of a complete state of security, like martial law. I mean closed circuit cameras have been installed where the dervishes used to gather, their Hosseinieh [Mosque], so that they can identify any of the dervishes that go through, so that they can go to their homes and arrest and detain them. For this reason, there is a complete, heavy, and intense atmosphere of a security and martial state.
Campaign: What kind of follow-up has been done about the detained dervishes?
Inside the country, those lawyers who have not yet been arrested are trying to identify the detained individuals so that they can file complaints with judicial authorities and the head of the Judiciary. Those dervishes who are outside the country, and especially supporters of The International Organisation to Protect Human Rights in Iran, have received documents and evidence about this. [They have received] photographs of those who were injured by bullets during these clashes. They have prepared a file and after translating the documents, they sent it to the office of Ahmad Shaheed, the UN Special Rapporteur for Iran in Geneva. More information will be sent to him, too.
Campaign: Why do you think there is increased pressure on Gonabadi Dervishes?
I must say this is not unrelated to what happened before the election. There are two factors in operation here. One is that dervishes have traditionally voted for those who have defended their rights. Because in the past Mr. Karroubi repeatedly defended the rights of dervishes, during the  presidential election the dervishes voted for him…This is one of the factors that brought the forceful crackdown on the dervishes, as a way of seeking revenge. The other reason is that the faction affiliated with Esfandiar Rahim Mashaei (Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s Chief of Staff) is considered the “Deviant Group,” and they believe that they … are not following the Sharia … and that is why, by suppressing the dervishes, they wish to prepare the groundwork for cleansing the slate of Mashaei’s group for the parliamentary elections … someone by the name of Shahbazi was dispatched to Sarvestan, Kavar, and the Shiraz suburbs, and because the number of people around there who have recently been attracted to dervish ways and Sufism has grown, these clashes occurred.
Names of those arrested during the recent days’ clashes, according to IOPHRI:
1. Hojjat Valizadeh from Kavar, 2. Kazem Hosseinzadeh from Sarvestan, 3. Hojjat Keshavarz from Sarvestan, 4. Rahim Pour Rostam from Kazeroon, 5. Yadollah Parsian from Nourabad, 6. Ali Asghar Saeedi from Sarvestan, 7. Nasrollah Heydari from Nourabad, 8. Saeed Karimaee from Karaj, 9. Massoud Ahmadi from Karaj, 10. Amin Saffari from Karaj, 11. Iman Karami from Shiraz, 12. Hamid Moradi Sarvestani, 13. Reza Entesari, 14. Alireza Roshan, 15. Ali Karami, 16. Mehdi Asnaloo, 17. Mehdi Hosseini, 18. Ali Astaraki, 19. Mostafa Abadi, 20. Mehran Rahbari, 21. Hamid Pour Rezagholi, 22. Khosro Dari, 23. Majid Mottaghian, 24. Hossein Asadi Fereidooni, 25. Hassan Visgheli, 26. Hamid Parhizgar, 27. Hekmat Naderi, 28. Khosro Dari, 29. Hossein Asadi, 30. Majid Mottaghian,