[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 the website:] United Republicans of Iran
[Date:] 3 Aban 1384 [25 October 2005]
Baha’i Children and Youth Deprivation of the Right to Education for 25 Years
A Generation Without the Right to Education
A quarter of a century ago, following the establishment of the Islamic Republic in Iran, together with many other social, religious and political groups, the Baha’is, who consider Iran their sacred homeland, became the subjects of a special anger from the newly established government. For many, proof of being a Baha’i was tantamount to the death penalty. …
Subsequently the lack of rights of the Baha’is was unlimited. Termination of pensions, dismissal from jobs, deprivation of their right to own legitimate and legal property became parts of this disenfranchisement, of which very little has been said or written about. In the last quarter of a century, few Iranian political or human rights activists have dared to defend the rights of Baha’is.
In this information age, the deprivation of the right to education for Baha’i children and youth in schools and universities is perhaps the greatest crime committed against one of the largest Iranian religious minorities. In the first years after the revolution, Baha’i children regained their right to be admitted to schools. Now, a quarter of a century later, Baha’i youth have not yet been allowed to enter any of the country’s public and private universities. While a group affiliated with the Basij [(paramilitary)] and the IRGC Guard Corp and other colourful partakers entitled groups can go to universities without fulfilling [academic prerequisites] and sometimes very far from these prerequisites, some young people with brilliant academic records, due to their religious affiliation, are deprived of a university education.
Diane Ala’i, a human rights activist for the past 13 years, has sought the rights of Baha’is in the corridors of the United Nations in Geneva and New York.
Ms. Ala’i … pointed out that not only Iranian Baha’is but other Baha’is around the world consider Iran their sacred homeland. She said that followers of this religion have been repressed since its inception in Iran. She added, after the Islamic Revolution, the various repressions of the past took a systematic form, which led to the execution and killing of 200 believers of this religion. All the elected Assemblies of the Baha’i community in Iran were among those killed. Diane Ala’i stated that her claims were supported by the reports on Iran by UN Special Rapporteur, [Reynaldo] Galindo Pohl.
Ms. Ala’i, provided statistics for comparison, and said that there are 300,000 Baha’is living in Iran and they constitute the largest religious minority. This is larger than the combined number of members of the three recognized religious minorities (Zoroastrian, Christian and Jewish).
Regarding the educational situation of Baha’is in Iran, Diane Ala’i said, “The legal basis for denying young people seeking education in Iran goes back to Ayatollah Golpaygani’s communiqué. The communiqué was also approved by Mr. Khamenei who officially banned the admission of Baha’is to universities.
Regarding Mr. Golpaygani’s communiqué, she said, “Until two years ago, in the national university entrance examination registration form, each applicant had to specify, by placing a cross in the designated square, which recognized religion under Iranian law he/she belonged to. Since the Baha’i Faith was not included as an official religion in these forms, the Baha’i youth ignored this part of the form either by adding a square to the form or by leaving the designated squares empty. In doing this, they were deprived of the opportunity to attend universities. On this matter Diane Ala’i reiterated, “On one hand, we Baha’is must not lie about our religion, and on the other hand, we are also bound by Iranian law, and deliberately presenting false information on a government form is naturally a criminal act”.
The human rights activist went on to say, “After international pressure, in the 1383-1384 [2004-2005] academic year, the Iranian government finally agreed to remove the section related to religion from the national university entrance examination registration form. Thus, for the first time since the revolution, more than a thousand young Baha’is were able to take the entrance exams, and more than 80 per-cent of them passed the exams successfully, but that was not the end of the story. The national university entrance examination officials then included another question, and the student had to nominate which religion he / she will pass the religious course. Baha’i youth due to their greater familiarity with Islam had ticked the Islamic box. So, when the results of the national university entrance examination were announced, all the [Baha’i youth] were registered as Muslims. When these applicants approached their universities and reported the mistake, they were deprived of the right to study again. As a result of this, out of eight hundred applicants accepted in the national university entrance examination, only 10 were allowed to register, but this group also refused to register to show solidarity with the other 790.”
… Diane Ala’i by referring to the importance of education and the study of sciences in the Baha’i Faith, said, “Because of the above-mentioned obstacles to education in public centres, a few years ago the Baha’i community sought to establish a system of higher education. University level classes and laboratories were held in homes, but the professors were internationally recognized. Negotiations were made with several reputable universities and after ensuring the high standard of the Baha’i higher education centre in Iran, all made appropriate arrangements to recognize the documents issued by these centres. But sometime later, government forces attacked these centres, arrested and imprisoned the professors. Photocopiers, which were vital for the reproduction of textbooks, were seized and the teaching facilities, which were often the homes of well-wishers, were confiscated.”
Dian Ala’i went on to say that this effort was repeated and led to similar results. …
After this meeting, we had the opportunity to have an exclusive conversation with Ms. Ala’i. …
Q. Ms. Ala’i, please explain the type of work you are doing at the United Nations?
A. I have been working with the UN Commission on Human Rights in Geneva since 1992, as well as the Commission on Human Rights of the UN General Assembly. …
Q. Is it true that Canada is likely to issue another resolution condemning human rights abuses in Iran this year?
A. Yes. This is the third year in a row that Canada has submitted a resolution to this effect. Of course, you might know that Europe has been a pioneer in this direction before, and not only the UN General Assembly but also the UN Commission on Human Rights has been condemning Iran for 19 consecutive years. …
Q. In your view, have you seen any changes all the years you have been involved in human rights in the corridors of the UN in New York and Geneva?
A. Unfortunately, some countries, such as China, Sudan, etc., have recently questioned the issue of what right European countries like Canada, etc. have to decide on human rights violations in their country. Unlike in the past, when these countries were in a defensive position, this view indicates a clear attack on human rights. Of course, I always repeat in these encounters that you may try, here is the ball and here is the field, you have the facilities and you can deal with human rights violations in European countries, Canada or others. You can suggest a resolution if you want. In short, the point is that in today’s society, humans have reached a stage where they cannot allow a country to violate the most basic rights of its citizens in silence. …
Q. Another concern is that in the case of the Baha’is in particular, the Islamic Republic has never agreed to enter negotiations on the violation of the rights [of the Baha’is]. So, what can be done about it?
You emphasize that dialogue alone is not enough, but you did not specifically say how for example, condemning Iran at the United Nations has a positive effect on improving the human rights situation.
A. It may not be said that this kind of approach has a direct positive effect, but we can see that challenging human rights violations in Iran has had an effect in preventing further deterioration of the situation. Meanwhile, how can a country be allowed any treatment of its citizens without at least being condemned by the international community?
Q. You mentioned that there is a view that considers the conviction to not be effective, and it seems the UN Human Rights Commission has not passed a resolution condemning Iran in the last three years. Do you see any improvement or signs in relation to the Baha’is of Iran?
A. No! I firmly say no. Since last March, when the 61st session of the commission on human rights abuses in Iran was held with restricted access, more than 50 Baha’is have been detained without charge. Most of them were released on bail but they do not know why they should receive bails of millions of tomans. No one tells them what their charge is. They have been arrested for no reason and released without trial on heavy bail. At least it is positive that they have been released. There are still about 10 people in detention, where there is neither an indictment nor a trial date.
Q. Have the Baha’is of Iran been invited to participate in the Institute for the Dialogue of Religions, of which Mr. Mohammad-Ali Abtahi is a prominent figure and Mr. Khatami is the intellectual father?
A. You can ask this from those gentlemen. Also remind them that the Baha’is are the largest religious minority in Iran.