[PROVISIONAL TRANSLATION FROM PERSIAN]
[Translator’s notes appear in square brackets.]
[Personal information has been redacted.]
[The excerpt below is from the section of the article that pertains to the Baha’i Faith]
[Adapted from website:] BBC Persian
[Date:] 5 Mehr 1390 [27 September 2011]
Two Nobel Peace Prize Winners Called for Respect for the Human Rights of Baha’is in Iran
Desmond Tutu: In today’s “connected” world, [any] attempts to prevent acquisition of knowledge will fail.
Archbishop Desmond Tutu, one of the leaders of the [anti-]apartheid movement in South Africa, and José Ramos-Horta, president of East Timor, have encouraged the academic community around the world to support the Baha’i Institute for Higher Education and its students in Iran.
In their open letter, these two Nobel Peace Prize winners called on Iranian authorities to release a number of arrested professors and administrators of the Institute. The Baha’is of Iran established their own free scientific institute in the middle of 1360 [mid-1980s] with the aim of meeting the educational needs of their youth, who had been barred from entering public universities since the [Islamic] Revolution. Iranian officials have declared this Institute illegal and banned its activities.
According to the Iranian Students News Agency (ISNA), two days ago, in a press conference, the Iranian minister of intelligence, Heydar Moslehi, said, “The Baha’is had set up a virtual university and operated in the form of that institution; they have been identified and arrested for “promotion and propagation of Baha’i activities.”
In an open letter published on the Huffington Post website, Desmond Tutu and José Horta wrote: “We urge the Iranian government to release unconditionally the instructors of the Baha’i Institute for Higher Education, who are currently in prison and are facing charges related to their educational activities, and to acquit them of all charges.”
On 21 May, Iranian security officials visited the homes of more than 30 directors and administrators of the Baha’i Institute for Higher Education and arrested at least 11 of them.
The Trial of Six Defendants Has Begun
The Baha’i International Community has announced that the trial of six of these individuals has begun in one of the branches of the Tehran Revolutionary Court. The defendants are charged with propaganda activities against the regime and activity against national security.
Desmond Tutu and the president of East Timor have called on academics around the world to protest the action of the Iranian government in any way possible with regard to individuals’ deprivation of education. These two Nobel Peace Prize winners have called on universities around the world to take steps, if possible, by examining the level of education of Iran’s informal Baha’i university, and to take measures for the continuation of the education of its students. They say that in addition to the Baha’is, other students have been expelled from Iranian universities for their political or pro-reform views.
Desmond Tutu and José Horta added, “In the 21st century, it is particularly shocking that dictators and totalitarian leaders are trying to subjugate their people by depriving them of education or information.”
“Denial of Discrimination”
Senior officials in the Islamic Republic consider allegations of any discrimination against its citizens, especially Baha’is, to be baseless. Mohammad Javad Larijani, the secretary of the human right centre of the Judiciary, recently stressed that Baha’is enjoy all citizenship rights, including the right to education.
In June this year, in an interview with the Iranian Television Station, he said, “As long as they abide by their citizenship rules, we will tolerate them. As you see, people who are Baha’is also have factories in Iran. They are university professors, they are students at the university; we have more than a hundred (Baha’is) in the universities.”
Baha’is say that most of the courses [run by the] Baha’i Institute for Higher Education are held in the homes of its students or teachers.
According to them, in recent years, many of these classes have been offered to students via the Internet, and a significant number of new professors who are collaborating with them are graduates who returned to Iran after traveling abroad to continue their studies, or have volunteered to work with them from abroad.
The Ministry of Science of Iran had recently considered the action of judicial authorities in the arrest of a group of administrators of this institute as a legal action.
In response, the Baha’i International Community issued an open letter to Kamran Daneshjoo, Iran’s minister of science, research and technology, calling for an end to the government’s unjust and repressive policies toward the Baha’is.
Baha’is say many of the graduates of the Baha’i Institute for Higher Education have already been accepted by at least 50 universities in the United States of America and Europe and the attitude of the authorities will not affect the continuation of the work of this decentralized and increasingly online institution.