Iran’s campaign to deny higher education to Baha’is

International response and media reports

Australia
Austria
Brazil
Canada
Chile
France
Germany
Guam
India
Ireland
Kuwait
Netherlands
New Zealand
Romania
United Kingdom
United States
Zambia

The Iranian government’s policy of systematically denying Baha’is access to higher education continues to generate considerable condemnation from around the world.

The Baha’i community’s initiative to offer education to its young community members who are barred from university – known as the Baha’i Institute for Higher Education (BIHE) - has also come under attack from the Iranian authorities. Raids in May 2011 on some 39 homes of BIHE staff and faculty, followed by the imprisonment of a number of them, has provoked an outcry in numerous countries, among international organizations, and has been widely reported by international media.

Here is a selection of such action:

International

European Union
  • Baroness Catherine Ashton – High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and Vice President of the European Commission – expressed her “serious concern about the recent wave of arrests of Baha’i citizens, and the shutting down of an educational centre of the Baha’i community in Iran…” (5 September 2011)http://www.consilium.europa.eu/uedocs/cms_Data/docs/pressdata/EN/foraff/124507.pdf

European Parliament
  • Dennis de Jong, co-chair of the Intergroup European Parliament Intergroup on Freedom of Religion or Belief and Religious Tolerance said that “"Baha'is are blocked from obtaining higher education, are banned from all forms of employment in the public sector and are not issued work permits for a wide range of businesses…" and Member of the European Parliament (MEP) Klaus Buchner similarly said that Bahá’ís “are deprived of access to education and to certain professions and now their private businesses are even being shut down…." (17 November 2015)http://news.bahai.org/story/1083

  • Resolution highlighted Iran's increased persecution of Baha'is, noting they "suffer heavy discrimination, including denial of access to education…" (17 November 2011)http://www.europarl.europa.eu/sides/getDoc.do?type=MOTION&reference=P7-RC-2011-0594&language=EN

United Nations
  • UN Human Rights Council side event, in which the UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief, Heiner Bielefeldt, called the Bahá’ís the “most persecuted group in Iran” and stated that systematic persecution occurs in kindergarten, elementary, and secondary education, and that “it would continue in higher education but Bahais are banned from university, and those Bahais who are discovered are removed.” (7 March 2016)https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/human-rights-remain-nonexistent-for-irans-bahai-population/2016/05/12/c782fccc-162a-11e6-9e16-2e5a123aac62_story.html?utm_term=.5971a89a7932

  • UN Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran, Ahmed Shaheed, commends the documentary To Light a Candle on the denial of education for Bahá’ís in Iran at a side event held at the 28th session of the UN Human Rights Council. (22 March 2015)http://news.bahai.org/story/1044

  • UN Human Rights Council conducted its Universal Periodic Review for Iran and offered 291 recommendations on how Iran might improve its human rights record, 10 of which mention the Bahá’ís. 8 of these recommendations were rejected, and 2 were partially accepted. One of the partially accepted provisions put forward by the government of Chile recommends that Iran “promote access to higher education for members of the Baha'i community and other religious minorities.” (19 March 2015)http://news.bahai.org/story/1045

  • UN General Assembly’s resolution on human rights in Iran calls upon the Islamic Republic of Iran to address the “discrimination against, and exclusion of…members of the Baha’i faith, regarding access to higher education, and to eliminate the criminalization of efforts to provide higher education to Baha’i youth denied access to Iranian universities, and to release those imprisoned for this reason.” (19 November 2013)http://shaheedoniran.org/english/human-rights-at-the-united-nations/un-general-assembly/general-assembly-resolutions/general-assemblys-2013-resolution-on-human-rights-in-iran-2/

  • UN General Assembly's Third Committee approved a resolution that catalogs a wide range of abuses in Iran, including the “targeted attack on the Baha'i educational institution,” and calls upon Iran to "eliminate discrimination against, and exclusion of, women and members of certain groups, including members of the Baha'i faith, regarding access to higher education, and to eliminate the criminalization of efforts to provide higher education to Baha'i youth denied access to Iranian universities." (21 November 2011)http://dl.bahai.org/bwns/assets/documentlibrary/867_Iran_human_rights_situation.pdf

National

Australia
Austria
Brazil
Canada
Chile
France
  • More than 1500 postcards have been dispatched in all regions of France, describing the background and situation of the Baha’i Institute for Higher Education. Radio features about the campaign were broadcast on Frequence 19 radio and Radio Nasim. (5 July 2011)

Germany
Guam
India
Iran
  • Dr. Sadegh Zibakalam, a well-known university professor at the University of Tehran, writes an open letter to Dr. Mohammad Javad Larijani regarding the denial of access to higher education for Bahá’í students in Iran. (1 October 2014)http://iranpresswatch.org/post/10990/

Ireland
  • The Chairman of Ireland's Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs and Trade, along with members of the Committee – which includes Members of Parliament and Senators – met with Iran’s Ambassador to Ireland and raised the matter with him, requesting that the Ambassador convey their concerns to his authorities in Tehran. The Ambassador undertook to do so. (12 July 2011)

  • More than 50 academics called upon the Iranian authorities to cease their attacks on the Baha'i Institute for Higher Education and to allow all students in Iran access to higher education. (4 November 2011)http://www.irishtimes.com/newspaper/letters/2011/1104/1224307039487.html

Kuwait
  • The Al Seyassah newspaper published an article reporting the attack against BIHE. (24 May 2011)

Netherlands
  • Thousands of postcards have been dispatched in all regions of Netherlands, describing the background and situation of the Baha’i Institute for Higher Education.

New Zealand
  • Condemning the raids and arrests, New Zealand’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Murray McCully, described the denial of higher education to the Baha’is in Iran as “reprehensible.” (1 July 2011)

  • The Baha’i Club at Victoria University in Wellington held an awareness-raising event which engaged a good number of students, including a number of sympathetic and supportive Moslems. (June 2011)

Romania
  • Sixty-eight celebrated figures signed a petition, appealing to the Iranian authorities to cease its systematic campaign of persecution of the Baha'is, including "repeated attempts to hinder the progress of the Baha'i community's efforts to educate its young people..." (25 January 2012)http://news.bahai.org/story/883

Slovakia
  • 84 leading academics, including a former Prime Minister, call upon the Iranian government to end its persecution of Baha'i educators and students. (18 September 2012)http://news.bahai.org/story/925

South Africa
United Kingdom
  • UK Parliament seminar in which the All Party Parliamentary Group on the Bahá’í Faith discussed the denial of economic rights to members of religious minorities in Iran, including the denial of access to higher education for Bahá’ís in Iran. (1 August 2016)http://news.bahai.org.uk/2016/08/01/appg-on-the-bahai-faith-hosts-seminar-exploring-denial-of-economic-rights-to-religious-minorities/

  • Prominent lawyers and lords in the UK signed an open letter to the Islamic Republic of Iran denouncing the persecution of the Bahá’ís. The article mentions the denial of education for Bahá’ís in Iran. (26 June 2013)http://www.ibanet.org/Article/Detail.aspx?ArticleUid=436c3b38-712d-499d-be44-4deb355195ce

  • UK Parliament seminar in which the UN Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran, Ahmed Shaheed, stated that the “international community has an indispensable role to play in continuing to support the voices of Iranian citizens that continue to demand that the right to education become a reality for all.” (26 December 2012)http://news.bahai.org/story/937

  • Professors from Oxford, Cambridge and other leading universities in England wrote an open letter calling for academics, students and politicians to support the right of Baha’is to access higher education in Iran. “The authorities must be taught that human rights are universal,” they wrote to The Guardian newspaper. “Barring Bahá’ís from university exposes the government's own ignorance.” (11 June 2011)http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2011/jun/11/iran-bahai-right-higher-education

  • The Board of Deputies of British Jews and the Union of Jewish Students condemned the arrest and detention of Baha’i educators in Iran. “The mistreatment of religious minorities does not demonstrate a strong society,” they said in a statement. “Only through fostering a culture of mutual respect can Iran progress to a legal and political situation worthy of all its citizens. The Board and the UJS believe that all people, and all Iranians, should be given equal access to higher education on the basis of merit, and not de-barred because of their religious beliefs. We call for the immediate release of the eleven imprisoned Bahá’í educationalists, as well as the others who have been detained or sentenced on the basis of their faith.” (17 August 2011)http://www.bod.org.uk/live/content.php?Item_ID=190

United States
Zambia
  • Students at the University of Zambia launched a two-week long postcard campaign “in support of BIHE and the right to education.” The postcard depicted Zambian students on one side, and on the other a message for Iran’s minister of science, research and technology stating “All Iranian citizens have the right to education,” “The Baha’i Institute for Higher Education ‘prisoners’ should be released immediately,” and “Baha’is should be able to enter universities as faculty and staff and as students who can get a degree.”


International Organizations

Amnesty International
International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran
Committee of Human Rights Reporters
Committee on International Freedom of Scientists
  • The Committee – which monitors the human rights of scientists around the world, and assists those in need – appealed to Iran's Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, to "immediately and unconditionally release" all imprisoned individuals affiliated with the Baha'i Institute for Higher Education and to "allow the Baha'i Institute to freely operate, and to ensure that all Iranian students have access to higher education." (29 February 2012)http://news.bahai.org/story/899

International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran
Scholars for Peace in the Middle East
  • The members of the Board of Directors of Scholars for Peace in the Middle East (SPME) – a worldwide organization of academics – denounced the raids on homes and the imprisonment of faculty and administrators of the BIHE, and demanded the immediate release of the faculty and staff members still imprisoned. SPME also encouraged faculty from around the world to endorse the demand for the immediate release of prisoners. (8 July 2011)http://www.spme.net/cgi-bin/articles.cgi?ID=8220


International Media

Quartz
D Magazine
The Blade
The Irish Times
The Daily Beast
World Religion News
Bahá’í World News Service
The Guardian
The Australian
The Chronicle of Higher Education
CNN International
Daily Telegraph
Frontline
Huffington Post
Radio Farda
Radio Zamaneh
Rahesabz
The Sydney Morning Herald
Times Higher Education
University World News
Wall Street Journal
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