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Report: Protesting Dervish Prisoners Put in Solitary Confinement

FILE - The Great Tehran Penitentiary, where the Majzooban Noor news outlet covering Iran’s Gonabadi Dervish religious minority says detained Dervishes were beaten and then put in solitary confinement for staging a sit-in protest Aug. 29, 2018.

An Iranian news outlet covering Iran’s Gonabadi Dervish minority says a number of jailed Dervishes have been put in solitary confinement at a prison near Tehran after guards broke up a protest they had held.

In several tweets posted Thursday, Majzooban Noor said authorities at the Great Tehran Penitentiary transferred an unidentified number of Dervishes to solitary cells in response to the protest staged by those prisoners the previous day. It said the prison management also cut off phone connections to wards where the Dervishes were being detained, to prevent information about them from leaking out.

Sit-in protest

A day earlier, Majzooban Noor posted several tweets saying security guards used batons and tear gas to break up a sit-in by male Dervish inmates calling for the release of female Dervishes held at Qarchak prison, also near the Iranian capital. The Dervish detainees in both prisons were among several hundred Dervishes arrested by security forces in February for involvement in anti-government protests in Tehran.

In its Thursday tweets, the news outlet said relatives of Dervishes wounded in the breakup of Wednesday’s protest were concerned that prison authorities would keep the inmates in solitary confinement until their wounds healed, in order to cover up the incident. It said family members sent a letter to judiciary officials demanding immediate access to the prison to meet with the detainees.

There were no reports of the Great Tehran Penitentiary incident in Iranian state media.

Violent confrontations

The February 19-20 protests by Iranian Dervishes escalated into violent confrontations with security forces, who arrested more than 300 people. Five security personnel were killed in the clashes.

The Dervish protesters had been demanding the release of arrested members of their community and the removal of security checkpoints around the house of their 90-year-old leader, Noor Ali Tabandeh. Members of the Sufi Muslim religious sect long have complained of harassment by Iran’s Shiite Islamist rulers, who view them as heretics.

This report was produced in collaboration with VOA’s Persian service.

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