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Iranian Sufis' House of Worship 'Attacked By Militia'

A house of worship was destroyed in Isfahan in 2009.
A house of worship was destroyed in Isfahan in 2009.
Iranian militiamen have raided a Sufi house of worship in the northern city of Karaj, a Sufi community leader told RFE/RL's Radio Farda.

Mostafa Azmayesh is a representative of the Sufi Nematollahi Gonabadi order, which suffered the attack. Azmayesh told Radio Farda on May 12 that roughly 100 members of the Basij security force accompanied by plainclothes agents on motorcycles attacked the house of worship on May 10 in this city west of Tehran.

The attackers were prevented from entering the building and were later dispersed by police.

Iran's Basij is a semi-regular volunteer militia. The attackers shouted slogans against Sufism, a branch of Islam regarded as heresy by some conservative Muslim clerics.

Azmayesh said the Basiji "tried to break into the house of worship saying 'we should settle accounts with dervishes.' "

A dervish is a practitioner of Sufi Islam, an Islamic mystical tradition. Sufism began in the early years of Islam and promotes a lifestyle of abstinence from worldly pleasures.

Sufism is divided into various orders. The Gonabadi branch is one of the most prominent and socially active in Iran, although it is one of dozens of active orders in Iran.

Since Iran's 1979 Islamic Revolution, Sufis have faced a crackdown by the country's Islamic government. The pressure has intensified since Mahmud Ahmadinejad became president in 2005.

Sufis have been sentenced to lashings and imprisoned. Several of their houses of worship have been destroyed.

In 2009, a Gonabadi house of worship was demolished in Isfahan. In 2006, roughly 1,200 Sufis were arrested when police attempted to close a Sufi house of worship in Iran's holy city of Qom.

Azmayesh says the recent attack is an attempt to frighten and humiliate his fellow dervishes.