In Solidarity with Fellow Gonabadi Dervish Prisoners, Reza Sigarchi Forgoes Food, Medicine

Posted on: October 21st, 2018

Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA) – In an act of protest, Reza Sigarchi, a Great Tehran Penitentiary prisoner of conscience and member of the * Gonabadi Dervish religious minority, announced Saturday, October 20th that he will be abstaining from both food and medicine.

Sigarchi’s strike is a demonstration of support for his fellow downtrodden Dervishes, according to Majzooban Noor, a website covering Dervish community news. He will reportedly not eat or ingest medicine until the following demands are met: lift the house arrest order on Dervish leader Noor Ali Tabandeh; release female Dervish prisoners; reunite separated Dervish prisoners into the same Ward; return Abbas Dehghan to Great Tehran Penitentiary.

Sigarchi, who suffers from heart disease, was hospitalized last week in Imam Khomeini Hospital where he underwent an angiography.

Five other Dervish prisoners in Great Tehran Penitentiary — Salehodin Moradi, Mojtaba Biranvand, Mohammad Reza Darvishi, Saeed Soltanpour, and Ali Mohammad Shahi — have been on hunger strike since a violent raid on their sit-in by prison guards on August 29th.

Hunger-striking Dervish Abbas Dehghan still hasn’t eaten since September 2nd. Dehghan reportedly spent one hour in Great Tehran Penitentiary post-trial before being transferred to Ward 2A of Evin Prison, under IRGC jurisdiction, where he has remained since.

All of the aforementioned prisoners were arrested amid the “Golestan Haftom” incident in February 2018, where Iranian police and plainclothes members of the IRGC’s Basij faction confronted hundreds of Gonabadi Dervishes who had rallied outside the home of their spiritual leader Noor Ali Tabandeh. The Dervish demonstrators sought to prevent the possible detainment of Tabandeh, who has reportedly been placed under extended house arrest by Iranian authorities.

Hundreds of Dervishes were beaten, wounded, and arrested during the Golestan Haftom incident. A similar attack occurred on January 24th after an intervention from security forces on the same street, heightening the sense of fear within the Dervish community.

Though Iranian judicial authorities estimate that around 300 people have been arrested in connection with Golestan Haftom, HRANA has thus far published the names of 324 arrestees and estimates that the actual number is considerably higher.

* There are various divisions among Dervishes in Iran. In this report, the term “Dervish” refers to Nematollahi Gonabadis, who declare themselves as followers of Twelver Shi’ism, Iran’s official state religion.

18 Dervishes starving to death; prison warden says “So what?”

Posted on: September 23rd, 2018

Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA) – In the past month alone, eighteen hunger striking Gonabadi Dervish prisoners in Iran have been beaten with batons, tased, and electrically shocked – and now, the prison’s warden has outwardly stated that it is not his concern if they die.

The prisoners were first beaten by prison guards at Great Tehran Penitentiary on August 29th, after they held a sit-in to protest the beating of female members of their religious minority in Gharchak Prison in Tehran’s east. After guards violently broke up the sit-in, 18 Dervishes were transferred to solitary confinement, and all 18 went on hunger strike in protest. To date, they have not had a single meal, or any food at all, in more than 30 days.

When some of their fellow cellmates expressed concerns about the physical conditions of some of the hunger strikers, the prison’s warden, known only as Farzadi, responded thusly: “So what if they die?”

According to Majzooban Noor, a news website that focuses on Dervish issues, the hunger strikers are suffering from vertigo and reduced blood pressure. Specifically, the physical condition of Mojtaba Biranvand has been described as critical. He had previously been sent to a clinic due to severe physical weakness. Refusing to break his hunger strike, he has rejected supplemental injections.

Abbas Dehghan, another hunger striker held in the same penitentiary, has only one kidney and is greatly suffering from the toll the strike has taken on him.

The August 29th attack targeted Dervishes in ward 3 of the prison. Eighteen Dervishes from Section 4 who protested the treatment of their fellow prisoners were also sent to solitary.

Previously, on September 1st, HRANA reported that three Dervishes had gone on hunger strike: Ali Bolboli, Salehodin Moradi and Mohammad Reza Darvishi. On September 2nd, Majzooban Noor added six more hunger strikers to the list: Abbas Dehghan, Ali Mohammad Shahi, Mojtaba Biranvand, Ali Karimi, Jafar Ahmadi, and Ebrahim Allahbakhshi, On Monday, three more people joined them: Heydar Teymoori, Majid Yarahmadi, and Saeed Soltanoor. On Tuesday, five more dervishes joined the hunger strike: Babak Taghian, Ehsan Malekmohammadi, Sekhavat Salimi, Reza Bavi and Akbar Dadashi. The last Dervish to join was Majid Rashidi.

The Dervishes demand the end to the house arrest of their spiritual leader, Noor Ali Tabandeh. Their other demands include releasing female dervish prisoners from Gharchak Prison and reuniting all imprisoned dervishes in one single section of the GTP.

All of the Dervishes were arrested in relation to what has become known as the Golestan Haftom incident, named after the street on which it occurred. The incident occurred when a gathering of several hundred Gonabadi Dervishes was violently confronted by Iranian police and plainclothes members of the Revolutionary Guard’s Basij faction outside the residence of their spiritual leader, Noor Ali Tabandeh. The Dervishes had gathered to prevent his possible arrest.

In the violence that followed, hundreds were injured and many arrested. Though Iranian judicial authorities estimate that around 300 people have been arrested in connection with Golestan Haftom, HRANA has thus far published the names of 324 arrestees and estimates that the actual number is considerably higher.qqqgonabado

Dervish Hunger Striker Transferred to Prison Clinic

Posted on: September 8th, 2018

Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA) – Mojtaba Biranvand, a Dervish prisoner who went on hunger strike after being attacked by prison officials in the Great Tehran Penitentiary, was transferred to the prison’s clinic on September 7, 2018, after experiencing a steep drop in blood pressure.

Steadfast to the terms of his hunger strike, Biranvand has declined both intravenous treatment and transfer to an outside hospital. He was moved to declare a hunger strike after he and his comrades were violently raided by prison guards during a sit-in protest and transferred to solitary confinement cells. HRANA previously published an open letter from the Dervish prisoners outlining their terms of protest.

As punishment for his participation in protests against the restrictive measures imposed on Gonabadi Dervish spiritual leader Noor Ali Tabandeh, Biranvand was previously sentenced to seven years in prison and two years in exile, to be served in the southeastern province of Sistan & Baluchestan.