New clashes in Iran: police attacked by Sufi protesters
A demonstration by Gonabadi Sufi dervishes in Tehran protesting against the arrest of one of them has led to violent clashes with the Iranian police, media reported.
As a result of clashes, three police officers were killed. Nine protesters including the bus driver, who was a member of the Sufi sect, have been arrested, an Iranian police spokesman said.
A video on social media showed a white bus slammed into a group of around 40 riot police officers in a narrow street. The bus also strikes several parked cars as it tries to escape the scene, Reuters reported.
The police spokesman Saeed Montazer al-Mahdi confirmed that three police officers were killed and the murderers were arrested.
Montazer al-Mahdi added that two members of Basij, a volunteer militia under the Revolutionary Guards’ command, were also killed, ISNA reported.
He noted more than 300 protesters have been arrested, while around 30 police officers and some protesters were also injured in clashes.
According to Majzooban, a website linked to the Gonabadi Sufis, some protesters were shot by the police. The website also reported that some injured protesters had been arrested in hospitals.
In the first place, the protesters had gathered in front of a police station in northern Tehran, demanding the release of some members of their sect. According to the Center for Human Rights in Iran (CHRI), a non-profit group based in New York, several Dervishes have been arrested in the last two months.
A senior researcher at the Institute for Oriental Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences, Boris Dolgov, speaking with a correspondent of Vestnik Kavkaza, noted that this incident is unlikely to provoke large-scale popular unrest in Iran, comparable to the January riots. "Any possible consequences for Iran are not likely, first of all, because this direction of Islam in the republic is quite small and not comparable with the total number of citizens of the country. There will not be serious clashes in the future, especially inciting inter-confessional conflict," the expert believes.
In his estimation, the riots, caused by the arrests of famous Sufis, were due to the relatively tough policy of the republic's ruling forces. "The Shia direction of Islam is, in fact, the state religion in Iran, and other areas are in the background. Such clashes reflect this situation, since believers who are not followers of Shiism are trying to protect their rights. Such incidents of a local nature are possible, but they do not lead to global contradictions in society and the state," Boris Dolgov said.