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Dervishes Protest In Northeastern Iran

Thousands of dervishes have gathered at the shrine of Beydokht to protest a court summons for their leader.
Gonabadi dervishes are reported to have converged on the northeastern Iranian city of Beydokht this week to protest the summoning of their leader to court, RFE/RL's Radio Farda reports.

Mostafa Azmayesh, a representative of the Nematollahi Gonabadi Sufi Muslim community outside Iran, told Radio Farda that around 5,000 dervishes from various Iranian cities gathered in Beydokht, burial place of leaders of the order, on April 25.

Nour Ali Tabandeh, the leader of the Nematollahi Gonabadi dervish order, has been summoned to a revolutionary court in Tehran for "causing a threat to public health by burying the dead in the Soltani Shrine of Beydokht."

Azmayesh added the authorities have warned that the dervishes have no right to bury their dead in the shrine, as doing so is "unhygienic," and therefore illegal.

Even though the authorities have banned the practice, "the dervishes still try to bury their dead in that shrine in accordance with their tradition," Azmayesh explained. He said a number of dervishes have been arrested and jailed for doing so.

Eight Gonabadi dervishes who protested the ban on Sufi burials in Beydokht were arrested on April 13.

Azmayesh said the dervishes will continue their protest until their demands are met.

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.

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