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Sufis Beleagured In Iran

In its latest report on international religious freedom, the U.S. State Department said that the Iranian government is violating the rights of Iran’s religious minorities. John Hanford, U.S. Ambassador at Large for International Religious Freedom, commented on the situation:

“In Iran, the regime is unrelenting in its repression of Baha’is and has created a threatening atmosphere for nearly all non-Shi’a religious groups, including Sufi Muslims, some Christian groups, and members of the Jewish community.”

There are an estimated two to five million Sufis in Iran. In early November, Iran’s Deputy Culture Minister Mohsen Parviz issued a statement saying there is no place for the promotion of Sufism in Shi’a-dominated Iran. Days later, in the city of Boroujerd, southwest of Tehran, security forces beat dozens of Sufis, arrested more than one hundred, and demolished part of the Sufis’ house of worship.

In February 2006, more than a thousand Sufis were arrested following the destruction of a Sufi house of worship in the holy city of Qom. Hundreds were injured when security forces attacked the establishment using tear gas and explosives against men, women, and children occupying the building. More than fifty people were sentenced to jail, lashes, and fines. There were reports that some had been tortured to renounce their faith.

Abdol Karim Lahiji is an Iranian lawyer who directs the Paris-based League for the Defense of Human Rights in Iran. In an interview with Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, he said that the abuse of Sufi Muslims is “not only about the other sections of Islam. It’s all the sections of society. In the last two years the civil society of Iran – the journalists, the students, the women, the [labor unions], the teachers, the universities – all are victims of these very aggressive politics.”

Gordon Johndroe is the spokesman for the White House National Security Council. He says the Iranian people are being mistreated by their government. “We know it is a very difficult time as the government cracks down on their freedoms,” says Mr. Johndroe. ”The United States of America stands with the people of Iran as they seek their freedoms and the government they deserve.”