February 15, 2019
Authorities have handed down prison sentences to over 200 Gonabadi dervishes, amounting to a total of 1000 years of jail time. The convictions follow a brutal attack by police against the dervishes in 2018, and a crackdown on their rights — and yet, as part of his commemoration of the 40th anniversary of the Islamic Revolution, the Supreme Leader asserted that the Islamic Republic was “merciful and forgiving,” insisting that, “since its inception, this revolution has never been merciless nor has it ever shed blood.”
IranWire has obtained the mug shots of 36 incarcerated dervishes, many of which tell the story on their own of what the Gonabadis have been through — for this reason, prison officials have recently taken new photographs to replace them.
Almost a year ago, on Monday, February 19, 2018, violent clashes between protesting Gonabadi dervishes and police resulted in the deaths of five people. Over 300 dervishes were arrested, violently attacked and then taken to the Greater Tehran Central Penitentiary, known as Fashafuyeh Prison. During the arrests many of the dervishes were injured by police firing pellets. The police also used batons, cutlasses, metal bars and Tasers during their attacks.
Human Rights Watch has supplied the most recent available information about the continued detention of Gonabadi dervishes. The courts have handed down sentences that include prison terms ranging from four months to 26 years, flogging, internal exile, travel bans, and a ban on membership to social and political groups. Flogging as punishment is recognized under international human rights law as a form of torture. During trials that lasted as short as 15 minutes, judges repeatedly insulted the accused and focused their questions on their faith as opposed to any recognized or official crime.
“The unjust trials of over 200 dervishes is one of the largest crackdowns against a religious minority in Iran in a decade,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. “Authorities have used the February protests as an excuse to intimidate this vulnerable group and silence another segment of Iranian society demanding basic rights from a repressive security state.”
The youngest among them was 18-year-old Armin Abolfathi, who was arrested along with his father and two brothers. His brother Arman Abolfathi, who had been sentenced by the lower court to seven years in prison and 74 lashes, was recently released after the court of appeals found him not guilty. Mohammad Reza Abolfathi was also sentenced to seven years in prison and 74 lashes.
Mohammad Reza Zehtab was sentenced to seven years in prison and 74 lashes. He is serving his sentence at Ward 2 at Fashafuyeh Prison
Massoud-Ali Madani was also sentenced to seven years in prison and 74 lashes and is being held at Ward 2 at Fashafuyeh Prison
Mehdi Izadpanah is serving time at Ward 3 of Fashafuyeh Prison. He has been sentenced to five years in prison and two years in exile in the city of Sirjan in Kerman province
Musa Fazlipour is serving a four-year sentence at Fashafuyeh Prison’s Ward 4