Monday, August 29, 2016

Persian Letters

Sufi Page Yet Another Website That Iran Really Doesn't Like

The Majzooban-e Noor homepage
The Majzooban-e Noor homepage
There are many websites that the Iranian establishment doesn't like. It shows its feelings by blocking them, usually on allegations of immorality or offenses against the country's national interests.

Then there are websites that Iran really doesn't like. Those are blocked, too, and the people behind them are often punished.

Among them is the Sufi website "Majzooban-e Noor," which covers news about the Nematollahi Gonabadi dervishes in Iran. The group, considered the largest Sufi order in the country, has come under increasing state pressure in recent years. Conservative clerics describe Sufi interpretations of Islam as deviant.

"Majzooban-e Noor" has closely covered the crackdown on dervishes, becoming an invaluable source of information for Sufis and others interested in their plight.

Recently, the website has felt the full wrath of Tehran, as officials have arrested and jailed those behind it.

Last week, seven of the website's staff members, including its managing editor and a photojournalist, were sentenced to jail terms ranging from seven and 1/2 to 10 1/2 years. They were convicted of acting against national security, spreading propaganda against the establishment, and insulting Iran's leaders -- the same charges that Iran often brings against political activists and intellectuals.

The seven dervishes have been banned from membership of groups and political parties and from engaging in any kind of media activity, including on the Internet, for five years.

Farhad Nouri (left) and mother in an undated photoFarhad Nouri (left) and mother in an undated photo
Farhad Nouri (left) and mother in an undated photo
Farhad Nouri (left) and mother in an undated photo
They had been in custody for the past two years and were reportedly subjected to solitary confinement while awaiting their sentences.

Some 20 people have been arrested in connection with the Sufi webpage since 2011.

The authorities have also recently sought to increase pressure against the editor of "Majzooban-e Noor," Farhad Nouri, who fled to Turkey two years ago.

Nouri told RFE/RL that his mother, Farzaneh, was sentenced over the weekend to two years in prison and three years in exile in Khuzestan Province for her affiliation with the website, acting against national security, and disrupting public order.

"My family and I dismiss these charges as baseless," Nouri said. "When they arrested my mother in September 2011 it was only because they were after me. My mother is a dervish, but she didn't have anything to do with my human rights and media work. Until I left Iran, she didn't even know how to use a computer."

Nouri's mother spent three weeks in prison in 2011, where she was reportedly interrogated, mainly about her son's media activities. She was released on bail.

Nouri also told RFE/RL that he has been threatened and told through intermediaries to discontinue his website and stop spreading information about the repression of Sufis.

He says the pressure he is facing has made him even more determined to continue his work.

-- Golnaz Esfandiari
This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
by: John Burke from: California
July 24, 2013 21:00
For an online petition demanding freedom for Ms. Farzaneh Nouri and the three other Dervishes sentenced with her:

For the online petition for the seven imprisoned Dervish lawyers and rights activists:

by: charls from: USA
July 24, 2013 21:30
Iranian government started a war that he will not win.Putting peaceful people like Dervish or Sufis in jail is a shame and big failure on the part of Islamic Republic.

by: Kiumars from: Earth
July 24, 2013 22:30
The title of the article should be “Yet another Jewish website that the Iranians don’t like”. Why Jews even bother?
In Response

by: Anonymous
July 25, 2013 13:02
Islamic Republic does not represent Iranian people ,after all Dervish and Sufis have been around long way before bunch Islamic thugs take over and everybody know they are peaceful people,probably that is what problem is that they are not pro violence and war.

by: Change Iran Now from: New York
July 25, 2013 05:51
One of the great challenges for authoritarian regimes, especially during the Arab Spring, has been the need to control access to online and social media tools that have become increasingly important in organizing demonstrations, protests and dissent. In many ways, online tools have become as valuable to protests as pamphlets, bullhorns and candles were in years past. Iran's efforts to construct a closed loop intranet system and ham-handed shuttering of critical websites is a direct threat and assault on basic human rights to express opinions and demonstrate opposition to one's government. The denial of such access and tools is no different than the shutting down of newspapers, TV stations and other media. In Iran's case it's a clear demonstration on the part of Khamenei that he has learned his lessons from the violent response to the 2009 election misconduct and aims to not have a repeat. Also, cutting off online access effectively shuts off citizens from the flow of information to outside groups. For example, the PMOI has long been a conduit of information, pictures and videos on what is happening inside Iran. Most recently, smuggled information led to the identification of secret nuclear production sites previously unknown to the West. Control of the internet is a means to cut off this flow of important information. Without it, Iran will be as isolated as an island nation in the Pacific.
In Response

by: Alidad
July 26, 2013 16:07
This rather trendy paragraph appears to be another surreptitious attempt to promote those communist wretches the MKO, or PMOI - the "People" part is simply laughable. Read the comment and you'll think the "PMOI" are all about change and youth and democracy. You people have nothing to do with or in Iran; there are no Iranian values or aspirations represented by the MKO-PMOI. Their place is a refugee camp in North Korea or better yet the Guantanamo prison. Please understand - nobody wants you back in Iran, stop deceiving the public parading as democrats or respectable members of society.
In Response

by: Change Iran Now from: New York
July 27, 2013 02:31
I appreciate being called trendy, but there is nothing surreptitious here. I only point out that dissident groups, of which PMOI is only one of many, are going to be an integral part of any broad effort to achieve change in Iran. If you have a problem with PMOI (and obviously it seems you do) I certainly hope you don't have a problem with the need to change Iran from a theocratic state to a more secular democratic one. But if you are in favor of keeping Iran just the way it is, then I think all the readers here know where your true allegiance lies. I am hoping you may disagree with PMOI, but not with the cause of Iranian freedom.

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Persian Letters is a blog that offers a window into Iranian politics and society. Written primarily by Golnaz Esfandiari, Persian Letters brings you under-reported stories, insight and analysis, as well as guest Iranian bloggers -- from clerics, anarchists, feminists, Basij members, to bus drivers.

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