CHRI – Despite worsening heart disease, Mohammad Ali Shamshirzan, an imprisoned dervish of Iran’s Sufi Gonabadi Order in Hormozgan Province, is being denied specialized treatment outside prison.
“Prisoners are taken to the hospital in chains and accompanied by guards to ensure they do not escape,” an official of the Islamic Sufi mystic order who asked not to be identified told the Center for Human Rights in Iran (CHRI). “So we don’t know why the authorities are opposed to his hospitalization.”
“He needs urgent care, but the Bandar Abbas Prison is not equipped to treat him,” added the source. “He has been hospitalized twice before [January 29 and March 2, 2017], but each time he was quickly returned to prison despite the doctors’ recommendations.”
The Gonabadi Order believes in a different interpretation of Islam than Iran’s ruling Shia establishment and emphasizes peace and non-participation in politics. The Islamic Republic views any alternative belief system, especially those seeking converts, as a threat to the prevailing Shia order and has imprisoned Gonabadi dervishes as part of an ongoing persecution campaign.
Shamshirzan was arrested in August 2011 along with several other Gonabadi dervishes when radical Shia seminary students with ties to the security establishment raided their religious gathering. The detainees were interrogated at the Intelligence Ministry’s detention center known as “Plaque 100” in Shiraz, Fars Province, before being transferred to the city’s Adelabad Prison.
Shamshirzan was granted bail in November 2012 until his trial at the Shiraz Revolutionary Court in April 2015 when he and two other dervishes—Kazem Dehghan and Hamid Arayesh—were respectively sentenced to life in exile in Bandar Abbas, Sistan and Baluchistan Province and Ahwaz in Khuzestan Province.
The court also sentenced three other dervishes—Mohammad Ali Sadeghi, Ebrahim Bahrami and Mohammad Ali Dehghan—respectively to seven years in exile in Dezful, Khuzestan Province; Zabol, Sistan and Baluchistan Province; and Maragheh, East Azerbaijan Province.
All six were convicted on the charges of “waging war against the state” for following “a deviant sect.” Their sentences were upheld upon appeal.
Shamshirzan began his exile in Bandar Abbas in the spring of 2016, but has been held in prison since January 7, 2017 after checking in with the local police station as he had done every day before to keep up with the conditions of his sentence.
On July 10, 2017, Iranian authorities blocked access to websites containing speeches by the group’s leader, Nour Ali Tabandeh.
In May 2017, following the expulsion of a Gonabadi dervish from the Islamic Azad University of Tehran, more than 3,000 students signed a petition condemning discriminatory policies against Gonabadi dervishes in universities.
“One group that has been witnessing the violation of its rights by the security forces and the judiciary in recent months is the Gonabadi Dervishes, several followers of which have been prevented from studying at the country’s universities,” said the petition.
“We will endure all the consequences of our unrelenting struggle against these exclusions in the hope that one day we could live together as human beings,” it added.
In September 2012, Daneshjou and six other Gonabadi lawyers—Hamidreza Moradi, Amir Eslami, Reza Entesari, Afshin Karampour, Farshid Yadollahi and Omid Behrouzi—were sentenced to prison terms ranging from four to seven years for the charges of “spreading falsehoods,” “propaganda against the state” and “assembly and collusion against national security” for their alleged administration of the Majzooban-e Noor website, which provides news about the dervishes.
The prisoners were all granted early conditional release in 2015.