[PROVISIONAL TRANSLATION FROM PERSIAN]

 

[Translator’s notes appear in square brackets]

[Personal information has been redacted.]

 

The difficult task of overseeing the enforcement of the Constitution[1]

[Section 7, Minorities]

 

[Page:] 635

 

In the Name of God

 

Number 83-4332

Dated 14 Dey 1383 [3 January 2005]

 

His Honour Hojjatol-Islam Mr. Khatami

Esteemed President of the Islamic Republic of Iran

 

Greetings

 

Pursuant to letter number M/83-9171, dated 10 Dey 1383 [30 December 2004] concerning the letter from His Holiness Ayatollah Makarem-Shirazi and his expressions of concern about the letter-writing [campaign] and activities of the Baha’is and acquisition of dangerous privileges in education and universities, I wish to present the following points to the best of my knowledge:

 

  1. The letter referred to by His Holiness Ayatollah Makarem was not enclosed as an attachment.  I believe it was possibly the letter signed by someone by the name of Rouzia [Roufia] Katebpour Shahidi on behalf of the Baha’i Community of Iran, which was sent to your honour about one month ago and contained complaints not only about the treatment of the Baha’is with respect to their life, property, and human rights, but also their treatment in relation to this year’s National University Entrance Exam.

 

  1. The concern on the part of Ayatollah Makarem-Shirazi regarding the penetration and activities of the Baha’is in foreign societies and their protection by some Western governments is appropriate.  Their recent collective action about not selecting a course [in university] and their collective complaint solely because the certificate of the results of the National Entrance Exam listed Islam as their religion in the personal data column, are indicative of such activity and the goal-oriented nature of their actions.  Naturally, we must show the necessary vigilance in relation to such strategy in pursuit of their predefined goals.

 

  1. Regarding the dangerous privileges that His Holiness Ayatollah had written as having been given to them in education and universities, as far as I am aware, this relates to their participation in the National University Entrance Exam and enrolment in universities and centres of higher education.  As you are aware, in addition to the norms that have existed regarding prohibiting the Baha’is from entering universities and even schools, in 1369 [1990/1991] the Supreme Council for Cultural Revolution passed a resolution that was also approved by His Holiness, the Great Leader.  That resolution clearly states that Baha’is are prohibited from studying at universities, whether upon entry or in continuation of their studies.  The text of this resolution, despite the fact that it was not a part of the openly announced policies of the Supreme Council for Cultural Revolution, soon fell into the hands of the Baha’is and they presented it to international organizations, including the Human Rights Committee, and on that basis accused the government of the Islamic Republic of violating human rights.

 

Following the complaints and investigations that were taking place in this regard, during meeting number 530 on 25 Azar 1382 [16 December 2003] of the Supreme Council on Cultural Revolution, it was suggested that the application form for enrolment in the National University Entrance Exam be changed, so that instead of the question regarding the religion of the applicants, the question would be posed as follows: In case you are going to take the religious knowledge test about a religion other than Islam, please specify: Jewish, Christian, Zoroastrian.  That way, without asking the applicant to state their religion, they could either remain silent or, of their own accord, select from among the four religions of Islam, Jewish, Christian, or Zoroastrian, the religion on which they would like to be tested.  As a result, even a Baha’i person would be able to refrain from announcing their religion, yet not have to announce a relationship to any of the official religions and enrol in the National Entrance Examination.  This was done during the National Entrance Examination of 1383 [2004/2005], and apparently some 700 or 800 Baha’is, based on verbal information given to this Committee, participated in the National Entrance Exam, and nearly 400 or 500 or them received a score that made them eligible to select a course.  Many of them probably achieved a good score.  In the certificate of the results of the exam that was sent to them by the Sanjish[2], their personal data had a religion column, as is the norm, and for this group of applicants it listed “Islam”.

 

This matter caused a collective objection on their part, and the admitted students generally refused to select a course.  Nearly 500 letters containing almost identical contents were sent to the Committee, indicating a collective action on their part.  The explanation given by Sanjish was that listing Islam in the report is neither an indication of their being a Muslim, nor the denial to them of the right to select a course.  But, in any case, they [Sanjish] changed some of the certificates and completely removed the religion column, and it was basically stated that in the future the form of the reports would be changed.  Of course, the Baha’i applicants claim that, in any case, they were not able to enter the university this year, either.

 

In all cases, the only favour that has been extended to the Baha’is in entering the university by the revision made by the Supreme Council and the Sanjish is that, if they do not express that they are Baha’i, they can participate in the National University Entrance Exam and also take the religious knowledge test, either for Islam or for one of the other official religious minorities, and if they obtain the required score for admission, they can select a course and enter the university as appropriate.  However, apparently, the resolution by the Supreme Council for Cultural Revolution of the year 1369 is still in force, as was previously mentioned.  Therefore, the Baha’is have gained greater experience and are attempting to make themselves an issue and say that they are not satisfied with the measure; they have thus used the aforementioned as an excuse to refuse to select a course at the appropriate time.  It remains to be seen what the situation will be this year.

 

I have no other information regarding any privilege that might possibly have been given to them in education or at universities.  Naturally, the relevant ministries and the Ministry of Intelligence will be able to provide you with the required information regarding this matter.

 

  1. A key point that exists, and His Holiness Ayatollah Makarem-Shirazi has also pointed it out in his letter, is the difficulty the Islamic government is having in this area.  It is advisable that the religious scholars clarify this matter from the point of view of Sharia law and religious principles relating to the government, and provide a decisive answer to the government that sheds light on the limits to be placed on the civil rights of the groups that are not followers of one of the religions recognized in the Constitution.  Do the individuals belonging to this group have a right to life and the basic rights that are required to pursue their lives in contemporary society or not?

 

Can we deprive all members of a sect or group who have a particular belief, however false, and are citizens of the Islamic Republic of Iran, from civil rights, including going to school and entering the university and higher education establishments, based on the fact that they are supported by adversarial governments and some of them are also spies, [when,] at the same time, they are subject to taxation laws like all other citizens and are obligated to serve in the military?

 

Clearly, spying for foreigners is a crime; and it is, indeed, a major crime whether a Muslim is the perpetrator or a Baha’i.  However, crime and punishment relates to the individual.  Anyone who is proven to have committed such a crime must also bear the legal punishment.  But can we actually pronounce a general verdict that all members of a group are spies and, for this reason, must be deprived of many basic social rights, namely civil rights, including the right to have access to education and higher education?  It would be truly beneficial if the esteemed religious scholars would clarify this matter in earnest and provide an explicit verdict about it that can guide the government in developing legislation, making judgements, and executing the decisions.

 

On the other hand, the Islamic Republic of Iran is a member of certain international conventions and must participate in the committees that oversee those commitments and provide explanations regarding having acted upon or violated their [international] undertakings.

 

In this regard, first, [and] principally, the position of the Islamic Republic with respect to such conventions must be clarified.  For example, the government of Iran has ratified the “Convention against Discrimination in Education”, passed by the General Conference of UNESCO, and is a signatory to that Convention.  According to Article 4 of the aforementioned Convention, the member states are committed to providing equal access to education for all, based on individual qualifications and abilities, without discrimination on the basis of religion or political belief.

 

What should the government do when faced with this international commitment and when answering questions about it [this commitment] at the relevant international gatherings?  Is it possible to state that since some of its citizens have a false belief and spy for foreigners, it [the government] does not find itself obligated to honour this commitment with regard to these citizens and/or their children?

 

Secondly, in relation to propaganda, these groups somehow manage to attract the sympathies of others in these gatherings in favour of themselves and against the Iranian government, by recounting the deprivation of their civil rights.  For example, two years ago, during the meeting of the Committee to Eliminate Racism[3] at its headquarters at the United Nations in Geneva, the Baha’is handed out the judgement issued by one of the Iranian courts, with English translation, to the participants, which relayed that an individual had intentionally killed a Baha’i, and based on the fact that the victim was a Baha’i and not a Muslim, he was neither sentenced to punishment, nor required to pay monetary compensation.  It is abundantly clear that the publication of this of material [judgments] creates particular understating and a negative judgement regarding the observation of human rights in the regime of the Islamic Republic of Iran.

 

Examples of such cases are many, and it is truly time for the esteemed religious scholars of Islam, in particular, a progressive scholar such as Ayatollah Makarem-Shirazi, to clarify the path of the regime and the position of the government regarding such matters by providing [his] scientific guidance and counsel.

 

Hosein Mehrpour

 

[Legal] Counsel to the President and Head of the Committee for Investigation and Overseeing the Enforcement of the Constitution

 

 

[1] [From a book: Vaẓífih Dushvár-i Niẓárat bar Ijráíh Qánún-i Asásí, Majmú‘ih Mukátibát va Naẓaríát Ḥuqúqí Hía’t-i Paígírí va Niẓárat bar Ijráíh Qánún-i Asásí 13761384 (1997-2006). Dr. Ḥusyn Mirpúr, Tehran, Thálith Publication, 1384 (2005)]

[2] [National Educational Assessment and Evaluation Organization]

[3] [International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination]