Mohammad Raji, a Gonabadi Sufi who was arrested in recent clashes between the police and the dervishes, died in prison on Saturday March 3. He was arrested on February 20 and since then, his family had received no news of him.
Quoting his family, the Gonabadi dervishes website Majzooban reported that he had died as a result of beatings he had received during interrogations [Persian link]. His son Mohammad Ali Raji is also in custody in Fashafuyeh Prison south of Tehran.
Through tears, Mohammad Raji’s daughter Tayebeh Raji talked to IranWire about her father’s incarceration and death..
We read reports that you were with your father when he was arrested. Is this true and can you tell us what happened?
Yes, and I was arrested at the same time that he was. They arrested me and other dervishes at 4am and I was released the next day at midnight. When I last saw my father, he was lying in a corner with a bloodied face. He was badly injured. I saw him from a distance. His hand was moving and this gave me hope. I was sure that he would receive medical care because of his bravery during those eight years of [the Iran-Iraq] war.
But you had no news of him during the two weeks since the arrest?
We did not. Every day we had to suffer from lack of news and anxiety. Everybody said something different. Some said our father was in [Rajaei Shahr Prison] in Karaj. Some said that our father was at Evin Prison or that the Revolutionary Guard’s Intelligence unit had taken him. Somebody said that he was doing fine while another said that he was not in a good way. Anyhow, the news of my father’s death ended this wait.
How did you hear about it?
Yesterday they called us from the Police Criminal Investigation Department [CID] at Shapur Square. They told us to send them a photograph of our father for the purpose of identifying prisoners. They told us to give them our address so they could come and ask us some questions. But we could not be sure about the identity of the caller. They said we should go there with my father’s picture and ID.
So his name was not on the list of detainees?
We asked everywhere to find out how he was doing, but they told us that my father’s name was not on the list of prisoners. He had not called us, either. It was natural that we were extremely worried. This morning [Saturday, March 3], a relative of ours went to CID at Shapur to give them the picture of our father. They said that somebody was in a coma and they could not be sure whether it was Mr. Raji or not. They took the documents, and a few hours later they called and said that, yes, that person was Mr. Raji and that he had passed away. Tomorrow we will go and ask for an autopsy. We have appointed a lawyer and we will do everything we can so that his blood will not have been wasted. Why didn’t they respect those days that my father stood up against the enemy?
What was your father’s rank during the Iran-Iraq war?
My father was the commander of Malek Ashtar Battalion of Azna City, 57th Army of the Abbas ibn Ali Division. He fought all through the eight years of war. After the war he was forced to retire. He could not deal with what was happening, so he went into farming. Father was a very calm and kind person and always avoided violence. My father and others [who were arrested during the clashes] had a defensive stance. They did not want to harm anybody whatsoever. They only wanted to stand up to the injustices done to the Sufi community. If there was an attack, it was initiated by the agents. I reject the notion that the dervishes went on the attack. My father could not hurt a fly.
How hopeful are you that you and your family will get justice?
Harassing, beating and torturing dervishes is an undeniable crime, whether this crime is proven in a court of law or not. We cannot ignore this. Those who were arrested had a right to have their day in court. They had a legal right to have a lawyer. Why did they have to beat them when they arrested them? Couldn’t they just arrest them without beating them [until they were] bloody? What was all that violence for? How bad must someone be beaten to make him go into a coma?
More on Iran's Gonabadi Sufis:
Clashes Between Police and Sufis Leave Five Dead, February 2018
Who are the Gonabadi Sufis?, February 2018
Iran Cracks Down on Sufis, July 2017
Campaign for the Rights of Gonabadi Sufis Gains Support, October 2017
Supreme Court Upholds Sentences for Gonabadi Dervishes, February 2015