Deprived of Education: Baha’i Student Shares Insights

Dec 3, 20100 comments

Below is an amazing piece written by Shirin, a Baha’i student who left Iran to pursue her degree in law after being denied education in the Islamic Republic of Iran because of her faith.

As we celebrate Iran’s Student Day in solidarity with Iranian students, we must not forget the plight of thousands of Bahai students who have been denied the right to higher education in Iran for the past three decades.  The government of Iran has blocked the 300,000 member Bahai community from higher education since the beginning of the revolution in 1979.  The Iranian government’s efforts to deny Iranian Bahais the right to higher education can be seen as part of a larger campaign by the Iranian government to isolate and eventually eradicate the Bahai community as a viable group within Iran. Iranian Bahais founded the Bahai Institute of Higher Education (BIHE)[1] in 1987 in response to government’s denial of education to Iranian Bahai youth.  The institute was started with limited resources and a limited number of faculties.  Teachings were done via teacher student correspondence and occasional small group classes held in private homes.  Despite all the hardships and numerous attempts by the Iranian authorities to shut down the institute, BIHE continues to offer Bahai students the education denied to them by their own government.  Many BIHE students have been able to continue their education in accelerated universities across the world. The Iranian government started to admit a small percentage of Bahai students to universities in 2007 in response to international outcry against this injustice.  However, most of those admitted have been expelled upon completing only a few semesters at their respective universities.  According to the Bahai International News service[2], in 2007 over 1000 Bahai students properly sat and completed the entrance exams in June 2007 for Almost 800 of these applicants reported receiving word that their files were incomplete and thus they were prevented from enrollment. The story of persecution of Bahais’ right of education does not end with the denial of right to enroll in universities.  Primary and secondary Bahai school children have been subject to expulsion from school, vilification, and psychological pressure from their teachers at school.  United States official Bahai news service reported in April 2007 that during a 30 day period from mid-January to mid-February 2007, “some 150 incidents of insults, mistreatment, and even physical violence by school authorities against Bahais student were reported at least in 10 cities in Iran.[3]”  Teachers vilify their Bahai students in front of their fellow classmates by telling them vile tales about Bahais and teachings of the Bahai faith. In 1388, Population of Combat against Educational Discrimination[4] (PCED) was founded to address discrimination in education on the basis of religion, ideology and gender.  The organization does not associate itself with any particular ideological, religious, or political groups.  PCED has been at the forefront of addressing discrimination in education against Bahai youth.  Navid Khanajani, founder of the PCED and a member of Committee of Human Rights Reporters, has been arrested several times and is now out on bail. Denial of education to a community can be seen as denying members of that community the right to be productive members of society.  Iranian Bahais have overcome this hurdle by educating young Iranian Bahais who were denied the right they deserved as citizens of Iran.  We praise the Iranian Bahai community for their tireless efforts to educate young Bahais and we stand by them to condemn this grave injustice.

[1] Bahai Institute for Higher Education [2] [3] Bahai World News Service [4]