Iran: "Thugs in Clerical Dress" vs. The Sufis
by Stephen Schwartz
Iran is locked in a stalemate between its clerical rulers, represented by the fanatical Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and his puppet, the demagogic president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, on one side, and the protesting masses, calling for "death to the dictatorship," on the other. The standoff, for an oppositional movement that appeared ready to sweep the Tehran usurpers aside, became visible on February 11, the 31st anniversary of the Iranian Islamic Revolution.
The activist enemies of Khamenei and Ahmadinejad failed that day to summon a force of demonstrators sufficient to overcome the armed bodies protecting the Islamofascist order. Members of the dissident Green Movement in the American Iranian community have echoed the verdict of the insurgent leaders in Iran, who argue that before it can significantly challenge Khamenei and Ahmadinejad, the new Iranian resistance must create a real political alternative to the regime. Demonstrators, although brave and self-sacrificing, are not enough: if power is to be taken away from the dictatorship, it has to come into the hands of a force beyond that in the streets. Although dedicated to the removal of Khamenei and Ahmadinejad, the partisans of change say they fear the organizing process will require at least two more years.
Meanwhile, the ignorant and arrogant Ahmadinejad has continued and even aggravated his Jew-baiting and West-hating rhetoric. In his latest outburst, the Iranian leader declared that the terrorist atrocities of September 11, 2001, were a "big lie" fabricated by America as a pretext for war. Although allowed to visit neighboring Afghanistan, Ahmadinejad has the nerve to blame the terrorism in that country on the U.S.-led military. The Iranian "thief executive" clearly lives in his own world of historical denial, in which neither the Holocaust nor 9/11 were anything more than media inventions. But he also believes he can practice the "big lie" against his own people, when he accuses the mass opposition of being agents of the U.S., Israel, and international capitalism
Global media have turned their backs on the Iranian crisis. But neither the deadlock affecting the Green Movement nor the bizarre antics of Ahmadinejad represent the only options for Iranians.
Iran is universally known as one of the leading Muslim countries in the development of Sufism, or Islamic spirituality. The mystics, known as dervishes, who have been victimized by the regime since 2006, have formed a new element in the struggle, the "Committee to Protect the Rights of the Students and Dervishes" (CPRSD). The Committee has branches in London, Brussels, and Washington.
With a wide stream of internet communications, members of the CPRSD have created a parallel system for the transmission of information from within oppressed Iran.
In a declaration issued on March 6, 2010, the CPRSD challenged Ali Larijani, a prominent Ahmadinejad ally, to remove official sanctions against protesting students and Sufis, and recalled a Shia saying from early Islamic history: "If you cannot be a faithful believer, at least show courage."
On March 2, 2010, members of the CPRSD issued ten demands addressed to the ruling clique. These include compensation to the victims of government-sponsored attacks on demonstrators, as well as to their families, and an end to state sanctions levied against the Sufis during the past four years.
The Tehran regime has destroyed Shia meeting houses, known as husseiniyat, in which the Sufis gathered; it has spent public funds on a propaganda campaign against the Sufis; it has dismissed them from their jobs and restricted their right to travel, and has prohibited burial of Sufis in traditional tombs.
The CPRSD represents the external face of the Gonabadi-Nimatullahi Sufi order, a group with roots in 19th century Iran. The Gonabadis come from Khorasan, a region on Iran's eastern border known for producing saffron and spiritual leaders. As I describe them in the book, The Other Islam -- on Sufism in the Muslim countries today -- the Gonabadi Sufis have been repeatedly assailed in the most reactionary periodical controlled by the state, the daily Jomhouri Eslami (Islamic Republic).
The 2006 attacks on the Gonabadis included the arrest of as many as two thousand dervishes and their supporters at a demonstration against state repression called in Qom, the center of Iranian Shia theological training. More than three hundred people were injured when police fired tear gas into the crowd.
A new clash with the Gonabadis occurred in November, 2007, in the town of Borujerd in western Iran. A mob of police and members of the Basij militia that serves the clerical system demolished a Sufi meeting house. Predictably, local officials alleged that the Sufis were participants in a foreign conspiracy.
In this and other aspects of their recent history, the Gonabadi Sufis proved to be predecessors of the more powerful movement for political reform that began last year, after the fraud perpetrated against Iran's voters by the Khamenei-Ahmadinejad gang.
The Sufis defend the mass protestors as well as themselves, providing arrested students with legal help, and demanding indictment of police officers responsible for violence against ordinary citizens asserting their rights.
The Sufis have also spurned the common cliché, which argues against foreign solidarity with the protestors because, it is claimed, help from abroad will justify the charges by Ahmadinejad and his henchmen that Iranians who have marched against the dictatorship are foreign agents. A Brussels conference in February was titled "How Can the European Community Support the Freedom Movement in Iran?" Speakers agreed that the election of Ahmadinejad in 2005 subjected Iran to a "cold coup," with power now in the hands of the most radical elements of the Khomeinist clergy.
For these extremists, the Iranian nuclear bomb program is a major support for a power-ideology that has replaced religion, the alleged foundation of the regime.
Like the Taliban, according to a conference speaker in Brussels, the rulers of Iran are simply thugs in clerical dress.
The Sufis, thanks to their spiritual strength, have sustained a defiant attitude against the Tehran tyrants. While the Sufis cannot expect much help from international media or the "human rights bureaucracy" -- which so often turns aside from real victims of evil -- they do not lack friends. The fate of the whole world remains in the hands of the Iranian protestors, and, as the political (and clerical) inspirers of the opposition dither, the Sufis may take the initiative.
These events are not details or private matters among Iranians - they deserve the attention of the whole world.