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.

Imprisoned Dervishes’ Sit-In Violently Raided; Transferred to Solitary Confinement

Posted on: August 30th, 2018

Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA)- On Wednesday, August 29, 2018, Great Tehran Penitentiary guards used batons, electrical shock, and tear gas to break up a sit-in of *Dervish prisoners that had been in effect in Ward 3 since June 13th.

The Twitter account of Majzooban Noor — who publishes a news feed on Dervishes, a religious minority — reported that prison officials filtered the other detainees out of the quarantine area before charging the Dervishes’ sit-in. They welded the gate of the prison yard, leaving a number of Dervishes surrounded. Guards used tear gas to keep at bay another group of Dervish prisoners who were attempting to break the siege.

A Dervish who took part in the sit-in explained in an audio file that “instead of heeding our ultimatum to release the female Dervish prisoners of Gharchak, they jarred us awake early in the morning and broke up the sit-in. The guards divided us into two groups, taking one to the prison hall and the other to the guard stand. One group of Dervishes broke a door to join the others. The guards countered by beating them severely. Our condition is troubling.”

Hours after the assault, all of the Dervishes imprisoned in Ward 3 were taken to solitary confinement cells. Shortly after, the following Ward 4 Dervishes protesting the attack on their Ward 3 comrades were also transferred to solitary confinement:

1. Ali Mohammad Shahi 2. Heydar Teymouri 3. Hassan Arab Ameri 4. Saeed Doorandish 5. Reza Yavari 6. Reza Sigarchi 7. Mohsen Azizi 8. Mehdi Keyvanloo 9. Mohammad Sharifi Moghaddam 10. Salehodin Moradi 11. Sina Entezari 12. Hadi Shahreza 13. Ahmad Iranikhah 14. Mehdi Mardani 15. Rassoul Hoveydah 16. Kianoosh Abbaszadeh 17. Mojtaba Biranvand 18. Abbas Dehghan

Dervishes in Ward 2 also protested the violence of the raid by tying their hands with a white cloth.

These events unfolded during a visit from Mostafa Mohebbi, Director General of Prisons of Tehran province, who had come to see the prison following reports of its poor conditions.

The sit-in was sparked by a violent attack on female Dervish prisoners of Gharchak Prison on June 13, 2018, in which they were assaulted with batons and shocked with electrical weapons before being dispersed among different wards. In protest, these female Dervishes declared a 16-day hunger strike, while male Dervishes organized the sit-in in a display of solidarity. HRANA previously published the identities of those who attacked the female Dervishes.

The crackdown against Dervishes intensified in late February 2018, when police forcibly disbanded a protest they had organized against ramped-up surveillance of their leader.

The February 2018 clash ended in the injury and arrest of a number of Dervishes. While Iranian Judiciary authorities estimated the number to be around 300, HRANA published the names of 324 and estimated the number to be considerably higher.

Human Rights Watch also tweeted about the February 2018 crackdown, and revealed in a recent report, “Since May 2018, revolutionary courts have sentenced at least 208 members of the religious minority to prison terms and other punishments in trials that violate their basic rights”.

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* There are various divisions among Dervishes in Iran. In this article, the term “Dervish” refers to Nematollahi Gonabadis, who in recent years have declared themselves followers of Twelver Shia Islam, the official state religion in Iran. On March 8th, Noor Ali Tabandeh, the spiritual leader of the Gonabadi Dervish faith, published a video stating that he is not permitted to leave his residence in Tehran.