Friday, December 08, 2006

Tehran’s Sunni Community without A Place to Pray
Esfandiar Safari - 2006.12.07

For nearly a month, under the pressure of certain security and religious organizations, Tehran’s Sunni community has been unable to observe any religious ceremonies or even attend Friday prayers. As a result, Tehran’s Sunnis have picked a number of representatives to meet with government officials and inform them of their problems and restrictions.
In an interview with the ILNA labor News Agency, Sanandaj’s representative in the Sixth Majlis [“Parliament”] announced, “If no space is provided for the Sunni’s to observe Friday prayers, they will do it in front of the United Nations’ office in Tehran.”
“Since Tehran’s Sunnis do not have even a single mosque,” added Jalal Jalalizadeh, “they have been observing Friday prayers at the Pakistan Embassy’s school. Since two weeks ago, however, the embassy was forced to move its school to a different location, which makes it impossible now for them to go.”
Jalalizadeh also announced the formation of a Sunni “trustee council,” which intends to meet with government officials to find a location for Friday prayers: “The council has not yet succeeded in this and so Friday prayer Muslims now gather in public parks to perform their Friday prayers rituals, until an appropriate location is found.”
A few weeks ago, however, “The police and vigilante militia prevented Sunni’s from observing Friday prayers at the Melat Park.” Jalalizadeh also declared that, “If in the coming weeks the Sunni community does not find a location for Friday prayers it will do it in front of the United Nations’ office in Tehran.”
While the Islamic Republic officially claims that it does not discriminate between the Shiites and the Sunnis, recent reports indicate that certain religious institutions that receive governmental funds have begun a widespread propaganda campaign against the Sunni faith in Tehran. Such actions have caused concern in the country’s Sunni populated regions, particularly along the Western borders.
Last Wednesday, the Organization for the Defense of Human Rights in Kurdistan called for the protection of the rights of Iranian Sunnis in an open letter. The organization also raised concerns about the possibility of a deeper confrontation between the Islamic Republic and the country’s Sunni community, calling on the government to attach priority to the prevention of such a conflict.
The organization also “Asks the Islamic Republic’s senior officials to respect the rights of religious minorities in Iran, in accordance with Article 18 of UN Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.” In addition, the letter called for an end to “divisive teachings and negative propaganda directed at the Sunni community” and suggested that the government consider “the needs of the Sunni community and efforts to designate a special location for the observance of its religious ceremonies.”

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