Tehran: Five security personnel were killed in Tehran on Monday night in clashes with members of a Muslim religious order and around 300 protesters were arrested, Iran’s police spokesman said.
Video footage posted on social media showed clashes between riot police and members of the Gonabadi Dervishes, an order following the mystical Sufi strain of Islam, seen as a threat to the Shi’ite theocratic establishment.
The protesters had gathered in front of a police station in northern Tehran, demanding the release of some members of their sect.
A video on social media showed a white bus ploughing through a group of around 40 riot police officers in a narrow street. Police spokesman Saeed Montazer al-Mahdi said on Monday that three police officers were killed in the incident.
Two members of Basij, a volunteer militia under the Revolutionary Guards’ command, were also killed, Montazer al-Mahdi was quoted as saying on Tuesday by the ISNA news agency.
“One was run over by a car, and one was stabbed,” he added.
He said more than 300 protesters have been arrested, including the two drivers of the “death vehicles”.
Montazer al-Mahdi said around 30 police officers and some protesters were also injured in clashes.
Further social media videos showed police firing tear gas to disperse demonstrators. There were also photos of injured Dervishes, with faces covered in blood.
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.
Pictures on Iranian media showed protesters had set several cars and motorcycles on fire.
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.
It said 10 members of the order were injured and three others arrested in the city of Kowar, in Fars province, on Jan. 14 after police attacked a rally demanding the release of other Sufi detainees.
The late U.N. Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in Iran voiced concern in 2017 about the “targeting and harsh treatment” of members of various Sufi groups, including the Gonabadi order and the Yarsan, also known Ahl-e Haqq.
Asma Jahangir, who died a week ago, said in her report to the U.N. Human Rights Council last March that the groups “continue to face arbitrary arrest, harassment and detention, and are often accused of national security crimes such as acting against national security”.