Amir Eslami

Beats Covered:
Local or Foreign:

Authorities arrested at least 30 members of the religious minority Gonabadi dervishes after a confrontation with plainclothes agents in the town of Kavar in Fars province, a spokesman for the group told the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran.

Among the detainees were journalists affiliated with Majzooban-e-Noor, a website that reports news about the Gonabadi dervish community, according to the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran and the reformist news website Rooz Online.

The Majzooban-e-Noor website listed Daneshjoo, Karampour, Entessari, Moradi, and Yadollahi as directors, and Behroozi and Eslami as editors. The journalists are also lawyers who have represented Gonabadi dervishes in recent years. Abdi is listed on the site as a reporter.

On January 15, 2013, the journalists refused to attend their trial, saying the Revolutionary Court was not qualified to hear their case, news reports said. The journalists were put in solitary confinement in Evin Prison and charged with “publishing falsehoods,” “creating public anxiety,” “propaganda against the state,” and “acting against national security,” according to the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran.

Majzooban-e-Noor said agents had targeted the journalists in an effort to silence news coverage of the group. The wife of another Majzooban-e-Noor journalist told the campaign that her husband and his colleagues had established the website so that “people would know what is happening to the dervishes.” She said the charges against the journalists were unfounded.

In July 2013, the Tehran Revolutionary Court sentenced the journalists to three to 10 years each in prison on charges of “forming the illegal Majzooban-e-Noor group with the intent to disrupt national security,” “propaganda against the state,” “insulting the supreme leader,” and “participation in disrupting public order,” according to news reports. The journalists again refused to appear in court.

Moradi was given 10 years and six months in prison, and Entessari was given eight years and six months, according to news reports. Daneshjoo, Yadollahi, Eslami, Behrouzi, and Karampour were sentenced to seven and a half years in prison. Abdi was given three years in prison. Farhad Nouri, editor of Majzoonban-e-Noor, told CPJ in late 2014 that Abdi was still being held in Evin Prison. It is unclear why authorities are still holding him.

The journalists were also banned for five years from “membership in groups, parties, sects, and activities in publications, media, and virtual space.”

In an April 17, 2014, raid on Ward 350 of Evin Prison, security and intelligence agents severely beat and injured several prisoners, according to news websites and human rights groups. Behroozi was reported to have been severely beaten and injured during this attack.

The group began waging a month-long hunger strike in September 2014 to protest the abusive treatment of Gonabadi dervishes nationwide, according to the reformist news website Kaleme.