A Dervish's Dream For Iran
Several years ago the friendliness, sincerity, and
the pure faith of the Gonabadi dervishes attracted me and, with the grace of
God, I became a dervish. My dervish sisters and brothers have for years been
under pressure in Iran, and we have tasted bitter discrimination for the crime
of simply being dervishes.
A destroyed house of worship of the Gonabadi dervishes in Isfahan in February
Can you imagine what it is like not to have psychological security in the
country of your ancestors? Isn't it surprising that an establishment that claims
it represents God on earth is worried and frightened over the ways people
In Iran, the authorities regard our worship and prayers to God as political
acts. Therefore our houses of worship are being destroyed right over our heads.
No one would ever imagine that the dark Middle Ages could be repeated in Iran, a
country with an ancient civilization and where the first human rights charter
ever was recorded.
The Sufis have had to endure the so-called Islamic punishments merely for
praying and reciting the name of God. My sisters and brothers who are serving
our country in the four corners of this land are being fired from their jobs
simply because they are Sufis. The work permits of lawyers who dare to defend
the rights of the dervishes are being cancelled to prevent them from being our
voices in the unfair trials that are being held.
State opposition against Sufism and dervishes has reached new levels since
President Mahmud Ahmadinejad took office in 2005. The dervish houses of worship
in Qom and Borujerd were destroyed, and there have been attempts to eliminate
the names of prominent dervishes from the pages of Iranian history. The
authorities also break up our charity organizations and shut down our cultural
Security agents have banned covering news related to the pressure and attacks
against dervishes, and they have repeatedly blocked our websites and blogs.
On February 18, 2009, they bulldozed our Hosseinieh (house of worship) in
Isfahan, so we decided to gather on February 22 in front of the parliament to
emphasize our legal rights and make ourselves heard to the representatives of
the people. But on that day, which later was named Dervish Day, our peaceful
presence in Baharestan Square was met by antiriot police forces. More than 800
dervishes -- men and women who came to Tehran from across the country -- were
arrested and sent to detention centers on the accusation that they were
violating national security or disrupting public order.
Finally, more than 100 of the detainees were transferred to Evin Prison. Most
were released after being interrogated, except 15 who were held for three months
in solitary confinement for protesting their treatment.
I told myself at the time that this is just the way the current authorities deal
with dervishes. But since last June's presidential election, I have seen that
they deal the same way with anyone who, for one reason or another, is not
considered one of them. Anyone who stands up to the current regime is charged
with waging a war against God or trying to overthrow the Islamic establishment.
Many have been shot at, and some have been killed.
The treatment of dervishes in Iran is a long, bitter story. Now it seems clear
that that the lack of concern for our plight over many years has resulted in the
rule of a power-hungry clique of lawbreakers who are moving our country steadily
toward a narrow religious dictatorship.
But Sufism teaches that hatred can be destroyed by love and kindness. It teaches
that oppression can be ended by patience and perseverance. I dream of a day when
my country, Iran, is once again a champion of human rights where every human
life is considered sacred and where the faiths of all -- Christians, Jews,
Sunnis, Shi'ia, and others -- are universally respected. I dream of the day when
justice and law will prevail in Iran.
The author is a 27-year-old dervish living in Iran, who for fear of reprisal
wishes to remain anonymous. The views expressed in this commentary are the
author's own and do not necessarily reflect those of RFE/RL.
Copyright (c) 2010 RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036. www.rferl.org
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