Tehran Police Open Fire on Sufi Gonabadi Protesters as Clashes Leave Several Dead
A protest by followers of Iran’s Muslim Sufi Gonabadi Order was attacked with police fire and tear gas near the home of the faith’s spiritual leader, Nour Ali Tabandeh, in Tehran on February 19, 2018.
Kasra Nouri, a spokesman for the Gonabadi Order who was at the protest, told the Center for Human Rights in Iran (CHRI) that at least three Sufis were wounded by direct police fire and dozens of others were injured by pellets, tear gas and batons.
Nouri identified Mohammad Salas and Saeed Soltanpour as two of the dead.
The protesters were demanding the release of Nematollah Riahi, a fellow devotee who is being held at the 102nd Police Station in Tehran in the city’s Pasdaran neighborhood.
Videos and images posted on social media showed police firing at a crowd that fought back with stones and Molotov cocktails.
“The police were in their uniforms but there was an equal number of plainclothes agents who protesters mistook for pedestrians but when they attacked us with sticks and stones, we realized they were agents,” Nouri told CHRI.
Nouri said he had no information about the deaths of three policemen who were killed when a bus, allegedly driven by a dervish, plowed through police units in a narrow alley near the scene.
— کمپین حقوق بشر در ایران (@ICHRI_Fa) February 20, 2018
[Video shows police forces attacking protesters on February 20 near the protest scene.]
The Muslim Sufi order, which is persecuted in Iran and which believes in a mystical interpretation of Islam, did not mention the bus attack on its Telegram channel and instead insisted that the faith does not support violence. The channel also reported that many devotees were traveling to Tehran to join the protest.
But the hardline Fars News Agency, which is affiliated with the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), claimed that a Gonabadi protester drove the bus, “martyring three policemen.”
Tehran Province’s Deputy Governor for Security Affairs Mohsen Hamadani condemned the protest as illegal and confirmed that shots had been fired. He did not provide more details but said members of the province’s security council had convened a meeting to discuss the unrest.
On February 20 in a video posted on YouTube, the faith’s leader called for calm and an end to state persecution of the Sufi order.
“Don’t do anything based on your emotions that may end up harming someone,” said 90-year-old Nour Ali Tabandeh.