[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:] Radio Farda

[Date:] 5 Khordad 1388 [26 May 2009]

 

On Saturday, 2 Khordad [23 May], the Committee on the Right to Education of Human Rights Activists in Iran, in attending Mir Hosein Mousavi’s speech in Isfahan, announced its main demand, which is the right of Baha’is to study in Iran. The Isfahan branch of the Committee used placards and inserted its requests, such as the return of expelled Baha’i students to university, to [express] one of its most important petitions.

About two weeks ago, the first national meeting on the right to education was held in the cities of Tehran and Shiraz, by the Investigation Committee on the Right of Baha’is to Education, a group of human rights activists in Iran. The Investigation Committee on the Right of Baha’is to Education was established with the aim of defending the right to education as one of the human rights.

In an interview with Radio Farda, Navid Khanjani, head of the Baha’i Committee for Baha’i Students Deprived of Education, stressed that the activities were not religious, saying that the organization’s biggest goal was to return Baha’i students to universities.

Ashkan is one of the students who was expelled from the university after spending three semesters there. He is currently living in Turkey with his brother. He told Radio Farda about how he was expelled from the university. He explains, “Like everyone else, I took the entrance exam and was accepted for a bachelor’s degree in business. I went to register, because it is emphasized that if [the form] had a space for religion, [I should] be sure to mention ‘Baha’i’ there. I wrote ‘Baha’i’, registered and studied two semesters very normally. One day, a security [person] suddenly came and said that the vice chancellor of the university wanted to see me. The president of the university came and said, ‘Are you a Baha’i?’ I said yes. He said, ‘You are a Baha’i and cannot continue your education.’  I said,’ I wish you had told me this on the first day, and I had not gone through so much expense and time.’ He said, ‘We have just examined your case, [and] we saw that your situation was like this. Please settle.’ They immediately gave me my card and said I did not need to pay that money either. [They told me to] settle in a week.”

Up to 26 years after the 1357 [1979] revolution in Iran, that is, until 1383 [2004], Baha’is were barred from participating in university entrance exams due to the existence of a religion option in the entrance exam registration form, unless the followers of this religion denied themselves in these forms. However, following international pressure, the government of the Islamic Republic of Iran removed the option of religion from the university entrance exam registration form, and from that date onwards, Baha’is were allowed to participate in the entrance exam, [and then to attend the university.

Shayan is one of those Baha’is who, despite being allowed to take the entrance exam, was not allowed to enter the university.

“I got an answer two years ago that I had been accepted to Imam Reza University in Mashhad for [a bachelor’s degree in] language translation,” he told Radio Farda. I was told that ‘all the universities in Mashhad are sponsored by the Holy Threshold of Imam-Rida Fund (Astan Quds Razavi)’, and therefore, Baha’i could not use these facilities. ‘Only a Muslim can study here.’”

According to Shayan, despite the pressures on Baha’is [that bar them] from studying, the Baha’i community continues to find a way for those Baha’is who are interested in studying, so that they can achieve this basic right. But their efforts also face problems.

“We have a university that was [established] by the Baha’i community itself,” he said. “They had officially rented a pre-university centre. The Intelligence [Ministry] and the government were informed of that. We have nothing to hide that others should not know. I went there for six months before it was closed; that is, they closed it completely, and the classes were taken to the houses. On 7 Mehr 1377 [29 September 1998], at seven o’clock in the morning, at this Baha’i university, all the houses, which we call scientific centres, were attacked and all the university documents were collected. We have not had any books or pamphlets since that date.”

Navid Khanjani, head of the Committee for Baha’i Students Deprived of Education, explains the Baha’i education situation in Iran.

According to Mr. Khanjani, “From 1983 onwards, these deprivations were not suspended, but were postponed until after the entrance exam. A series of students were faced with the matter of ‘incomplete file’, where no record book was issued for them. Some who were issued a record book and were able to enter the university were gradually expelled after one or two semesters. Students who have entered the university are gradually being expelled. The only reason for these deprivations was because they were Baha’is, and [there was] no political reason. Any university that found out that these people were Baha’is, according to confidential documents released by the Ministry of Science, citing Resolution 169, barred Baha’is from education and ordered [them] to be expelled if they entered the university.”

Nemat Ahmadi, a lawyer in Tehran, referring to the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Iran, told Radio Farda that the right to education is a right that should exist for everyone with any belief.

According to this advocate of justice, “Nowhere in the law is it stated that people are deprived of education due to their belief or even having a certain religion—not in the constitution, not in our ordinary laws. The fact that we now have a series of star students because of that kind of thought, and a [group of students] who, perhaps because of their religious beliefs, deprive these people of their education, is unconstitutional and against the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, especially Article 18.”