Dervish Woman Handed Prison Sentence on National Security Charges

Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA) When 324 members of the Dervish Muslim minority [1] were arrested February 3, 2018, Sepideh Moradi was among them. According to Human Rights Watch, a sense of injustice over intensified government surveillance of their spiritual leader prompted Moradi and her comrades to organize a protest, which flagged them as threats in the eyes of authorities.

Sure enough, Dervish news agency Majzooban Noor reported that when a detained Moradi–in protest of a lack of due process and legal representation for Dervishes–refused to attend her trial on July 28th, she was sentenced in absentia by Judge Salavati and is now beginning a five-year sentence at Gharchak Varamin Prison [2] for “Collusion to Act against National Security.”

Salavati leaned on section 23 of the Islamic Penal Code to stiffen Moradi’s sentence with two-year bans on travel, membership in political groups and parties, and media or cyber activity. She had already been barred from pursuing her master’s degree in Computer Science on a prior charge.

“The accused is the daughter of Hamidreza Moradi, an extremist figure and one of the directors of the Majzooban Noor website,” her verdict read. “She was raised in a dogmatic Dervish family, and joined the Gonabadi Dervish sect under the influence of their deviant beliefs.”

Moradi and her fellow women Dervishes reportedly endured mistreatment and torture over the course of their interrogation and detention. At one point Moradi went on hunger strike to protest a violent raid conducted June 13th by the Special Guard Force of the prison. HRANA previously published the identities of these attackers.

She received medical care from an outside facility on July 25th after weeks of follow-ups; as of the date of this report, no further information was available on her health condition.

Tehran General Prosecutor Jafari Dolatabadi announced on July 24th that 330 sentences had thus far been handed down in Dervish cases. He added: “In the cases of those 25 who refused to attend their court sessions in attempts to thwart trial proceedings, the court […] followed through with procedure. Their verdicts were delivered in person.”

[1] There are various divisions among Dervishes in Iran; those featured in this article are Nematollahi Gonabadis who consider themselves followers of Twelver Shia Islam, the official state religion in Iran. According to Human Rights Watch, Noor Ali Tabandeh, spiritual leader of the Nematollahi Gonabadi Dervish faith, published a video on March 8th stating that he is not allowed to leave his residence in Tehran.

[2] For more information on deplorable conditions in Gharchak prison, please refer to pages 18 to 20 of the following document compiled by UK Home Office:

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