RFL/RE – A conservative member of Iran’s parliament has accused a faction of the Gonabadi dervishes of espionage and collaboration with U.S. and Israeli intelligence services.
Without presenting any evidence, the deputy chairman of Iranian parliament’s influential National Security and Foreign Affairs Committee, Abolfazl Hasan Beigi, says there are two breakaway sects of the Sufi Muslim religious order that believe in armed insurrection.
Beigi’s comments come on the heels of bloody clashes between police, plainclothesmen militia affiliated with Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), and dervishes that started last December when security forces tried to install a checkpoint on an avenue in Tehran leading to the residence of the Gonabadi dervishes’ leader, Nour Ali Tabandeh.
In an interview with the state-run Mehr News Agency (MNA), Beigi claimed that these two factions of the Gonabadi order have separated from the mainstream Sufi school of Gonabadi dervishes led by the 90-year old Tabandeh.
Beigi, who is an IRGC commander, says the dervishes collaborating with foreign intelligence are mainly based in the cities of Qom, Shiraz, and Boroujerd. He insists that these dervishes reject the Islamic Republic’s ruling system and “have already admitted they are working in cahoots with the CIA and Mossad.”
Beigi did not specify where and when members of the dervish community supposedly admitted to such collusion.
The MP went on to allege that a second dervish fringe group is stockpiling weapons.
“The members of this extremist wing composed of former Gonabadi dervishes have procured guns. They believe in armed resistance and have already tried to use firearms in different places,” He said.
The two groups, Beigi alleges, try to pull levers with the UN Security Council and human rights groups in an attempt to involve the U.S. in Iran’s internal conflicts and pave the way for more sanctions to cripple the country.
Beigi’s comments echoed recent remarks made by different authorities in Iran, including the Chief of Tehran Metropolitan Police Hassan Rahimi.
“The rioters disrupting security on Pasdaran Avenue (the street leading to Tabandeh’s home, where protests broke out in late February) were directed and puppeteered by foreign hands and foreign-based anti-establishment terrorists,” MNA cited Rahimi as saying February 25.
Hardline clergymen and supporters of Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei have also made declarations against the dervishes.
At least five policemen and plainclothes militia were killed in the clashes. According the New York based Center for Human Rights in Iran (CHRI), approximately 170 Gonabadi dervishes were hospitalized in Tehran following the confrontations with police and security forces.
Two of them, Mohammad Labbaf and Nematollah Riahi, are in serious condition, the faith’s spokesman, Farhad Nouri, told CHRI February 23.
In a statement attributed to Nour Ali Tabandeh by Iranian state media, the dervish leader has called for peace and order, and for his followers to exercise restraint.