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Eight Dervishes Arrested In Iran

Iranian dervishes (file photo)

Iranian dervishes (file photo)

Eight Gonabadi dervishes are reported to have been arrested in different cities across Iran, in a fresh crackdown on members of the Shi'a-Sufi order, RFE/RL's Radio Farda reports.

The eight -- Alireza Abbasi, Ramin Sultankhah, Abdurazah Kashani, Shukrullah Husseini, Ali Kashanifer, Mohamad Marvi, Ali Marvi, and Zaffar Mobeeni -- were detained on April 13 in the cities of Gonabad, Beydokht, and Quchan, and taken to Vakilabad prison in Mashhad.

Farshid Yadullahi, a lawyer for the dervish association and a member of the Nematollahi Sufi community, told RFE/RL that the eight were arrested in connection with a protest two years ago for which they were already punished.

He said they were among a group of Gonabadi dervishes detained and tried in Gonabad in summer 2009 for protesting a ban on Sufi burials in Beydokht. The city is special to Gonabadi dervishes as it is the birthplace of some of their leaders. Most of the group -- including those arrested this week -- later received sentences of flogging or imprisonment.

Yadullahi said the eight again face charges of disrupting public order.

Nearly 200 Gonabadi dervishes were summoned to court last month for questioning over allegations of "disrupting public order" and "insulting high-ranking authorities of the regime."

The U.S. State Department in its most recent report on religious freedom cited "growing government repression" of Sufi communities and religious practices in Iran.