Iran: Sufi Protests in Tehran Turn Violent

Iran: Sufi Protests in Tehran Turn Violent

Today's clashes between security forces and protestors started after members of a religious sect marched on a police station demanding the release of some of their fellow worshippers.

A video on social media showed a white bus ploughing through a group of around 40 riot police officers in a narrow street.

Fierce clashes erupted on Monday in sensitive areas north of Tehran between security forces and members of the Sufi Gonabadi Dervishes group. Humanitarian groups, nongovernmental organizations and foreign governments have frequently warned that the several million Sufis in Iran are being persecuted by the Shiite clerical regime.

"The law enforcement forces arrested a number of dervishes and ended the protest by firing tear gas", a witness told IRNA.

Iranian security forces clash with members of the Gonabadi Sufi community in Tehran on February 19.

He noted more than 300 protesters have been arrested, while around 30 police officers and some protesters were also injured in clashes.

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The police spokesman Saeed Montazer al-Mahdi said that police arrested nine people over the murder of the policemen. In one video protesters are heard addressing the security forces saying they never wanted to fight them but they were left no choice.

"Some 100 policemen attacked the dervishes and shot at them", Kasra Nouri, a dervish taking part in the gathering, told RFE/RL. We are anxious about our security in the area, while we are defending our leader, Dr. Nour Ali Tabandeh.

That fear stems from the recent January protests in Iran in which police detained Sufis. "Our resolve is to defend him up to the last drop of our blood", he said.

According to the Center for Human Rights in Iran (CHRI), a non-profit group based in NY, several Sufis have been arrested in the last two months.

Members of Iran's Gonabadi Sufi order, known as dervishes, were protesting the arrest of members of the sect, according to unconfirmed social media reports.

In March 2017, the United Nations special rapporteur for Iran expressed concern over the state targeting of members of Sufi groups, saying they "continue to face arbitrary arrest, harassment, and detention and are often accused of national security crimes".