Security agents and police verbally and physically assaulted Gonabadi dervishes before arresting them for their protest gathering outside the Judiciary in Tehran, a protesting dervish told the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran.
Sadigheh Khalili, who is having difficulty walking after being kicked many times during the protest, said about 300 male and 26 female dervishes were arrested on March 8 and 9. All were released the following day.
According to Khalili, prosecutors at Evin prison promised the protesters that they would investigate their demands within a week.
At the beginning of the protest gathering the Greater Tehran Police Chief Brigadier General Hossein Sajedinia also promised an investigation by the next day, but instead the protesters were beaten and arrested.
The widespread protests by the Gonabadi dervishes stems from their anger at the lack of medical attention to three of their sick imprisoned members (Mostafa Daneshjoo, Hamidreza Moradi and Farshid Karampour) and the illegal transfer of two others (Reza Entesari and Farshid Yadollahi) from Evin to Rajaee Shahr Prison.
Majzooban-e Noor website, which carries news about the dervishes, reported on March 8 that 2,000 dervishes were going on hunger strike to defend the rights of their suffering brethren in prison.
The gathering of relatives of imprisoned dervishes in front of the Judiciary in Tehran on March 8 and 9 swelled with the participation of relatives of political prisoners and ordinary people.
Police forces and plainclothes agents assaulted and hurled abuse at hundreds of dervishes and the relatives of political prisoners.
Dervishes’ Protest Gathering
Day One: March 8
Sadigheh Khalili, the wife of Hamidreza Moradi, an imprisoned dervish who practices law, took part in the protest along with her young daughter and brother-in-law. She told the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran:
“On Saturday morning many dervishes gathered in front of the Tehran Revolutionary Court. We asked to meet with the Tehran Prosecutor to demand transfer of the three imprisoned dervishes to the hospital and the return of two other dervishes from Rajaee Shahr Prison to Evin,” Khalili said.
“But suddenly the agents attacked the gathering with pepper spray and tear gas… Many relatives of political prisoners as well as former prisoners were present at the gathering, including Nasrin Sotoudeh, [imprisoned human rights lawyer] Abdolfattah Soltani’s wife, and Sattar Beheshti’s mother.
“After the attack and arrest of a number of dervishes, Tehran police chief Sajedinia asked us to go home. He gave his word of honor to investigate our demands by nine o’clock the following morning. We said we would return if nothing happened by that time.”
Day Two: March 9
“At 11 o’clock on Sunday morning,” Khalili said, “we gathered in front of the Court again. Police and plainclothes agents were everywhere. The plainclothes agents were standing all the way up to Tehran Bazaar. There were fire engines, ambulances and police trucks all around to prevent us form being seen by ordinary people or those coming from the bazaar.”
“We were quietly standing in front of the Court. The agents were filming us and taking pictures. Half an hour later several male dervishes shouted that they want to meet with the Tehran Prosecutor and discuss their demands. Then suddenly the police, plainclothes agents and special guards attacked us.”
“They dragged the women on the ground and pulled their hair, causing their headscarves to slip. They kicked us with their boots and swore at us. They hit people on the head and neck with batons. They held and pressed on their mouths. They pressed on their throats.”
“It was really bad. I saw all of this happening. The [agents] shouted towards ordinary people, saying that we were a bunch of purse snatchers and thieves who wanted to take advantage of the commotion in the bazaar. Things got so chaotic that I think some ordinary people were also beaten up and arrested.”
Khalili added: “The agents beat up the women and insulted them. My daughter, who was trying to prevent her uncle from being arrested, was struck in the head, arm and leg with a baton and her hair was pulled.”
“They beat up everyone. The 60-year-old mother of an imprisoned dervish by the name of Reza Entesari was dragged on the ground and beaten.”
“I sat in front of a [police] truck door and shouted that I would not get inside unless they brought my daughter. One of the agents kicked me with his boots and pressed the door on my leg to force me to get in. I sat in the same position and took the beating until they brought my daughter and we both got into the truck.”
Khalili said the detainees were first taken to the Vozara detention center but for some unknown reason they were not admitted by the authorities there.
“Then we were taken to Evin prison. It was a very cold day. The men were all held in the courtyard and the women were taken to the prayer hall. There were some children among us as well, including a three-month-old infant and several two and three-year-old toddlers. We were in the prayer hall for several hours without any food and water. The children were crying.”
Khalili noted that all the detainees were booked and photographed. The following afternoon all male and female dervish protesters were released with the promise from the authorities to look into their demands within a week, she added.