Accessibility links

Breaking News

A Dervish’s Dream For Iran

Iranian dervishes dance in Sanandaj
Iranian dervishes dance in Sanandaj
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.

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 worship?

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 centers.

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.