The Weekly Standard Blog September 16, 2014
Evin Prison, Tehran, 2008 – Photograph Via Wikimedia Commons.
The Islamic Republic of Iran remains the worst global example of capricious interference by Muslim theocrats in the personal and spiritual lives of its citizens. On September 9, as reported by the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran (ICHRI), seven young Iranians went on trial. Their supposed crime? Producing a dance video of the Pharrell Williams’s pop hit “Happy” and uploading it to YouTube.
You might think Iran’s rulers would be pleased at expressions of felicity by their citizens. In Tehran, however, cheerful enthusiasm outside a narrow religious context is illegal. The seven defendants in the case—Sassan Soleimani, Reyhaneh Taravati, Neda Motameni, Afshin Sohrabi, Bardia Moradi, Roham Shamekhi, and an individual known as “Sepideh”—face allegations of “participation in producing a vulgar video clip” and having “illicit relations,” according to ICHRI. The dancing depicted in the Iranian video is notably modest. The Iranian authorities, nevertheless, claimed the female dancers were “naked” because they lacked the head covering or chador and “Islamic dress.”
Continue reading More Arbitrary Repression in Iran by Stephen Schwartz
The Weekly Standard Blog July 29, 2014
Ayatollah Seyed Hossein Kazemeyni Boroujerdi in his prison cell.
Ayatollah Seyed Hossein Kazemeyni Boroujerdi has been incarcerated, mainly in Tehran’s ignominious Evin Prison, since 2006. He is accused of “combat against God” for his criticisms of the Iranian clerical dictatorship, and is serving an 11-year sentence. Now kept in the “special clerical ward,” he has suffered numerous ailments, has accused his jailers of torture, and is among the most famous Iranian prisoners of conscience.
Boroujerdi was born in 1958, an heir to a distinguished Shia clerical family prominent before the Khomeini revolution of 1979. He studied at the theological center in Qom but rejected the ideology of Khomeini. He was arrested in 1995 and 2001 because of his popularity with Iranian believers. His father, Ayatollah Seyed Mohammad Ali Kazemeyni Boroujerdi, was executed by the regime in 2002.
Continue reading Dissident Iranian Ayatollah Again Denounces Tehran from Prison by Stephen Schwartz
The Huffington Post June 27, 2014
In 2014 the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, for the Islamic year 1435, is to begin on the night of Saturday, June 28, and end on July 27, once the dates are confirmed by moon sightings. Ramadan will be followed by a celebration of the feast of fast-breaking (Eid al-Fitr). Ramadan is a defining annual religious event for more than a billion believers worldwide, celebrated as the month in which the Quran was revealed to the prophet Muhammad. It comprises fasting through the daytime and prayer before, during, and after the fast.
Ramadan is an occasion for generosity and introspection, leading to purification as the participant recites the daily prayers. The practice of fasting is rigorous: It includes a ban on drinking water, smoking, and sexual relations during the daylight hours. Self-control by those honoring Ramadan should encompass refraining from and refusing to hear ill-intended speech.
Continue reading Ramadan Amid the New Middle East Crisis by Stephen Schwartz
The Weekly Standard Blog April 29, 2014
Noorud'din Nimatullah Veli, 1330-1431 CE, may his mystery be sanctified, progenitor of Nimatullahi Sufism
April 17, 2014, has come to be known among Iranian dissidents as “Black Thursday.” On that day, at least 100 Iranian riot police, members of the Revolutionary Guard Corps, soldiers, and officers of the Ministry of Intelligence and National Security joined prison guards in raiding Ward 350 of Tehran’s infamous Evin House of Detention. Numerous political prisoners and heterodox Muslims from the Gonabadi-Nimatullahi Sufi order are held at Evin.
Inmates of Ward 350 were assaulted brutally, with many injured seriously and their possessions destroyed, according to the Gonabadi-Nimatullahi website Majzooban Noor (The Alluring Light). Another Iranian opposition website, Kaleme, said the outburst by security personnel occurred during “an unprecedentedly long and aggressive inspection, [as] the prisoners protested.”
The Sufi source posted a letter on April 25 by Evin detainee Emad Bahavar, chairman of the youth branch of the Iranian Freedom Movement and a supporter of the unsuccessful 2009 opposition presidential candidate, Mir Hossein Mousavi. Bahavar was arrested during the Green Movement that year. In 2010 Bahavar was sentenced by a revolutionary court to 10 years in jail.
Continue reading Harsh Repression Continues Against Iranian Dissidents by Stephen Schwartz
The Weekly Standard Blog March 12, 2014
Noorud'din Nimatullah Veli, 1330-1431 CE, may his mystery be sanctified, progenitor of Nimatullahi Sufism. The great master was born in the now-martyred Syrian city of Aleppo.
On Saturday, March 8, members of the Gonabadi-Nimatullahi Sufi order, the most powerful Muslim contemplative body in Iran, assembled with supporters of other political prisoners in Tehran, for a peaceful protest against repression by the country’s clerical regime. Participants in the demonstration, held at the Tehran Prosecutor’s Office, totaled some 2,000 people. The Sufis called for solidarity with 10 inmates in Tehran’s notorious Evin prison, the Rajai-Shahr prison in the city of Karaj west of Tehran, Nezam jail in the southern metropolis of Shiraz, and the jail at Bandar Abbas, a major port on the southern coast.
Evin Prison, Tehran, 2008 -- Photograph Via Wikimedia Commons.
The Sufis asked for the return of two of their imprisoned members, Farshid Yadollahi and Reza Entesari, who has been summarily removed from Evin to Rajai-Shahr. They further demanded that Saeed Madani, an Iranian sociologist and member of the dissident Nationalist-Religious Front, be brought back from Rajai-Shahr, where he too had been shifted. Madani has been in jail since 2000. The Sufis also appealed for improvements in medical care for prisoners.
Continue reading Tehran Regime Targets Women in War on Sufis and Other Dissidents by Stephen Schwartz
The Weekly Standard Blog January 6, 2014
Noorud'din Nimatullah Veli, 1330-1431 CE, may his mystery be sanctified. The great Sufi master was born in the now-martyred Syrian city of Aleppo.
The ascension of Iran’s president Hassan Rouhani supposedly represented a “period of hope.” That may be true for Western negotiators hoping to spend more time in Geneva, but not for the Sufis and other religious minorities of Iran, whom the regime in Tehran continues to repress.
Sufis, let us first observe, are not the only victims of state reprisal in Rouhani’s Iran. Rouhani’s term began on August 3. Nasrin Sotoudeh, a human rights lawyer who had been jailed in 2011, was let out of prison in September. She had been sentenced to 11 years’ incarceration – reduced on appeal to six years – plus a 20-year ban on practicing law, and a 20-year prohibition on foreign travel. Her release was advertised intensively and came just before Rouhani’s extravagantly-promoted visit to the United Nations General Assembly in New York. Sotoudeh, whose clients included 2003 Nobel Peace Prize laureate Shirin Ebadi, was accused of “acting against national security, collusion and propaganda against the state, and membership in the Defenders of Human Rights Center.”
Continue reading Why Iranian Sufis Do Not Believe in Tehran’s ‘New Diplomacy’ by Stephen Schwartz
The Weekly Standard Blog December 4, 2013
Damage to the Great Mosque of Aleppo, Syria, inflicted by the Al-Assad dictatorship.
The Obama administration’s appeasement of Iran over its nuclear weapons program is intertwined with its appeasement of Syrian president Bashar Al-Assad. For Obama, the red line in Syria was the Al-Assad regime’s use of chemical weapons, not his murdering, at this stage, upwards of 120,000 people. Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov avowed that Syria would divest itself of chemical weapons. But Syria’s heavy tanks, artillery, and air force, which have done most of the killing in the country, were not on the table, nor was the criminal role that Iran and Hezbollah have played in the Syrian conflict.
United Nations Security Council Resolution 2118 provided a timeline allowing Damascus to “complete the elimination of all chemical weapons material and equipment in the first half of 2014.” That would give Al-Assad nine months more to evade the supposed accord, while his forces continue to slaughter the population. Again, Iran, and Hezbollah were nowhere mentioned in the resolution.
The Geneva II conference, scheduled for January 22, is supposed to bring together Syria’s two warring sides, excluding, said French foreign minister Laurent Fabius, Al-Assad himself and radical Islamists. Damascus rejected the prospect of a “Geneva II” without Al-Assad. “The era of colonialism has gone forever,” said a Syrian official. “What they need is to wake up from their dreams; otherwise, if they insist on these delusions, there is no need for them to attend [the] Geneva II conference.”
Continue reading Iran, Hezbollah, and Obama’s Double Betrayal of Syria by Stephen Schwartz
The Weekly Standard Blog August 27, 2013
The 15th c. CE shrine of Noorud'din Nimatullah Veli, Kerman Province, Iran, as seen in 2010 — Photograph Via Wikimedia Commons.
The title of Ferghe News, an Iran-based website, means “Cult News.” It is dedicated mainly to defaming Sufi Muslims. But Ferghe News, following the ideological posture of the Iranian clerical dictatorship, also condemns the Saudi-based Wahhabi sect (historically the most violent enemies of the Sufis), the Baha’is, never favored by Khomeinist Tehran, and “New Age” movements.
Ferghe News and its scandalmongering are anything but frivolous or trivial. They represent a malign use of the Internet to support the suppression of dissident Iranian Sufis and to gin up criminal charges against them. In a recent post, the site described indoctrination against Sufis as an element of the activities in “jihad training camps” at Azad University, in Khorramabad, capital of Lorestan province in western Iran.
Typical headlines in Ferghe News accuse Sufis of rape, murder, opium-smoking, corruption, serving as U.S. agents, affiliation with Freemasonry, and influence over the Green movement that emerged all too briefly to challenge the questionable results of the second election of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as Iranian president in 2009. (Masons are a conspiratorial hobgoblin for many Muslims. Sunnis blame them for undermining the Ottoman caliphate, and Shias accuse them of serving Britain against Persian interests more than a century ago.)
Continue reading Iran Steps Up Threats To Sufis by Stephen Schwartz