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

Recent Developments

Last updated: 12 July 2012

Note: This report is provided as a service to news media and others desiring current information about the issue of access to education for Baha’is in Iran. All details have been verified by the Baha'i International Community.

Words in italics have been altered or added since the previous update on 6 February 2012.


Summary of recent news

  • Baha’i Institute for Higher Education – developments: Legal appeals launched by the Baha’i educators jailed for their involvement in the Baha’i Institute for Higher Education have failed. Vahid Mahmoudi, originally imprisoned for five years along with his six former colleagues, was released on 9 January 2012 after his sentence was suspended. Faran Hesami and her husband Kamran Rahimian, who taught psychology with BIHE, have been sentenced to four years in prison.

  • International Reaction: The Iranian government’s policy of systematically denying Baha’is access to higher education continues to generate considerable condemnation from around the world. On 31 May, 17 non-governmental organizations called upon the government of Iran to urgently address the state of higher education in the country. On 20 March, an international body that monitors the human rights of scientists around the world, and assists those in need, urged the Iranian authorities to free imprisoned Baha'i educators.

  • University Expulsions: Since 1979, the government of Iran has systematically sought to bar young Baha’is from entering higher education. There have been recent expulsions in Zahedan and Shiraz.

  • Attacks on school children: Baha’i children at all levels continue to be monitored and slandered by officials in schools. In a recent example, a first grade student at one of the public schools in Shiraz, was physically assaulted by her ethics teacher who was eventually reprimanded, but only after the child’s parents protested to the authorities. Religious studies teachers are known to insult and ridicule Baha'i beliefs. In a few reported cases, when Baha'i students attempt to clarify matters at the request of their peers, they are summoned to the school authorities and threatened with expulsion if they continue to "teach" their Faith.

Further details

Baha’i Institute for Higher Education - developments

Legal appeals launched by the Baha’i educators jailed for their involvement in the Baha’i Institute for Higher Education have failed. The appeals court has ruled that the original verdicts and sentences still stand: Mahmoud Badavam, Noushin Khadem, Farhad Sedghi, Riaz Sobhani and Ramin Zibaie must each serve four years' imprisonment; Kamran Mortezaie will continue to serve a five-year jail term. Vahid Mahmoudi, originally imprisoned for five years, was released on 9 January 2012 after his five-year sentence was suspended.

The seven were sentenced in October 2011 for "membership in the deviant Bahaist sect, with the goal of taking action against the security of the country, in order to further the aims of the deviant sect and those of organizations outside the country." ' The judgements also cast the activities of the accused in support of BIHE as crimes and as evidence of their purported aim to subvert the State. There is no foundation whatever to the judiciary's assertion that the seven sought to undermine Iranian national security, and the authorities are themselves fully aware that such an accusation is utterly without credence. The prohibition on the attendance of foreign diplomats at the trials and the refusal of the judiciary to provide written documentation of the verdict to the accused demonstrate how unjustifiable are the assertions and actions of the government.

Prior to their trials, the seven had been detained for almost five months solely in connection with their services to an informal community initiative – known as the Baha'i Institute for Higher Education (BIHE) – aimed at helping young community members barred from attending university.

Some 39 homes of Baha'is associated with BIHE were raided in a coordinated attack in May, which included the confiscation of a number of personal belongings.

On 28 November, Ms. Faran Hessami, who was arrested on 13 September along with her husband, Kamran Rahimian and two other psychology instructors in an ongoing attempt to restrain the activities of BIHE, was released from prison. Kamran Rahimian still remains in prison.

Faran Hesami and her husband Kamran Rahimian, who taught psychology with BIHE, have been sentenced to four years in prison. The couple were summoned to court with two other Baha’is on 13 September 2011. Mr. Rahimian and Ms. Hesami gained Masters Degrees in Educational Counseling from the University of Ottawa, Canada, in December 2003. They are appealing their sentences.

Read profiles of the BIHE prisoners http://news.bahai.org/human-rights/iran/education/profiles

International reaction

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

On 31 May, 17 non-governmental organizations called upon the government of Iran to urgently address the state of higher education in the country. In a joint statement addressed to Iran's Supreme Leader, NGOs noted that more than 600 students, and some university lecturers, have been arrested since 2009 for peacefully expressing their opinions. The statement was signed by such organizations as Amnesty International, the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies, Human Rights Watch and United4Iran. See: http://org2.democracyinaction.org/o/6160/t/0/blastContent.jsp?email_blast_KEY=1207026

On 20 March, an international body that monitors the human rights of scientists around the world, and assists those in need, urged the Iranian authorities to free imprisoned Baha'i educators. In its open letter, the Committee on International Freedom of Scientists of the American Physical Society appealed to the Iranian government to "immediately and unconditionally release" all imprisoned individuals affiliated with the Baha'i Institute for Higher Education (BIHE) and to "allow the Baha'i Institute to freely operate, and to ensure that all Iranian students have access to higher education." See http://news.bahai.org/story/899

In Slovakia, the Foreign Affairs Committee of the Slovakian parliament issued a proclamation describing the Iranian government's incitement to hatred based on religion and belief is as "abhorrent." The statement also says that the "regime's endeavors to persecute Baha'is is chilling indeed," and demands an end to Iran's "spiralling efforts to destroy the Iranian Baha'i community." See http://news.bahai.org/story/882

For a detailed digest of international response, see http://news.bahai.org/human-rights/iran/education-special-report/international-response

University expulsions

Since 1979, the government of Iran has systematically sought to bar young Baha’is from entering higher education. Recent examples of Baha’i students expelled from university include:

Recently, a student at Payam-e Nour University, Zahedan, was expelled while studying in her first term; another was prevented from registering at the University of Applied Science and Technology of Zahedan University; an architecture student and a language student in Shiraz were expelled.

Two Baha’i students prevented from registering at the Isfahan University of Technology on the grounds that their applications were incomplete, requested written notification of their expulsions. Their appeal was ignored. The university then classified them as having withdrawn from their courses of study on the grounds that they did not register for or select classes by the due date, and has barred them from continuing their studies as a consequence.

Shohreh Rowhani of Nowshar (Mazandaran Province), who ranked among the top 1% of candidates who took the national entrance university examination in the field of languages, was barred from higher education due to being a Baha’i. See http://news.bahai.org/story/853

Attacks on school children

Baha’i children at all levels continue to be monitored and slandered by officials in schools. In a recent example, a young Baha’i was expelled from high school for refusing to participate in congregational prayer. He was sent to another school where he was asked by the principal and superintendent not to inform others about his religion.

In another example, a first grade student at one of the public schools in Shiraz, was physically assaulted by her ethics teacher, owing to her not participating in the school’s congregational prayer. The teacher hit the girl’s hand hard with a utensil, then heated up a spoon in the kitchen and put it on the child’s hand. When her mother objected to this assault, the ethics teacher, in the presence of the principal and other teachers, expressed pride in having committed such a deed. The teacher was eventually reprimanded, but only after the child’s parents protested to the authorities.

Secondary school students often face pressure and harassment, and some have been threatened with expulsion. Religious studies teachers are known to insult and ridicule Baha'i beliefs. In a few reported cases, when Baha'i students attempt to clarify matters at the request of their peers, they are summoned to the school authorities and threatened with expulsion if they continue to "teach" their Faith.

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