In light of recent news of the deteriorating health of Iranian prisoners Saleh Moradi and Kasra Nouri, who have been on a hunger strike for 70 days and are members of the country’s Sufi religious minority, Federal Government Human Rights Commissioner Markus Löning issued the following statement today (28 March):
I am deeply troubled by reports of the repression of members of the Sufi religious minority in Iran, who have faced arrests, the destruction of their places of prayer and assembly, restrictions on their freedom of religious expression, and discrimination in everyday life.
I call upon Iran to respect the human rights of all its citizens, regardless of their religious or ethnic identity, and to immediately release all who are being held prisoner solely for their religious convictions.
Along with Sufis, Baha’is and Christians are notable among the religious groups subjected to multifarious acts of repression in Iran. The country’s persecution of religious minorities violates fundamental principles of freedom of religion which Iran has pledged to uphold by signing, among other things, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
Sufis, also known as Dervishes, are practitioners of Muslim mystical traditions who belong to orders such as the Nematollahi-Gonabadi order. In Iran they face frequent discrimination as well as violent attacks which hinder their religious practice. In early September 2011, security forces violently targeted Sufi communities in many regions of the country, most prominently in the city of Kavar. Many Sufis were arrested, as were staff of the Majzooban-e-Noor Sufi news website, which had reported on the attacks. According to the most recent report from Ahmed Shaheed, the UN Special Rapporteur for Human Rights in Iran, as well as reports from human rights organizations and from media critical of the regime, nine of the Sufis arrested in 2011 are still imprisoned in the cities of Shiraz and Tehran without having been granted a court trial. The charges against them include “propaganda against the state” and “acting against Iran’s national security”.