Official character of Baha'i expulsions in Iranian university revealed

7 March 2007

The Baha'i International Community has obtained a document that appears to confirm double-dealing by Iran in its policy towards Baha'i students seeking higher education.

The document, a 2 November 2006 letter from the headquarters of Payame Noor University to its regional branches, states that it is government policy that Baha'i students "cannot enroll" in Iranian universities and that if they are already enrolled, "they should be expelled."

"This document provides proof of Iran's duplicitous behavior regarding Iranian Baha'i students," said Bani Dugal, the Baha'i International Community's principal representative to the United Nations.

"In its public face, Iran claims that it has finally opened the doors to Baha'i students, after some 25 years of keeping them out of public and private universities in Iran," said Ms. Dugal.

"But, as evidenced by this confidential memorandum from the Payame Noor central office, the real policy is apparently to simply expel Baha'is as soon as they can be identified."

Indeed, the content of the letter sharply contradicts denials issued last week by an Iranian government spokesperson when asked to comment on figures released by the Baha'i International Community showing that a large number of Baha'i university students have been expelled so far this year, solely because of religious discrimination.

According to a report by Reuters on 28 February 2007, a spokesperson for the Iranian mission to the United Nations, who had requested his name not be used, was asked about the high percentage of expelled students and replied: "No one in Iran because of their religion has been expelled from studying."

Until two years ago, all Baha'i students were kept out of universities by the requirement that everyone list their religion on entrance examination forms. Baha'is were automatically rejected.

After pressure from the international community and human rights organizations, Iran changed its policy and dropped the religious affiliation requirement.

Last autumn, hundreds of Baha'is passed the examination and some 178 were admitted into the university of their choice. So far this school year, however, at least 70 Baha'i students have been expelled as universities have learned that they were Baha'is.

The 2 November letter was issued on the letterhead of Iran's Ministry of Science, Research and Technology, and goes out from Payame Noor's "Central Protection Office" to directors of the university's regional centers.

"With respect, according to the ruling of the Cultural Revolutionary Council and the instructions of the Ministry of Information and the Head Protection Office of the Central Organization of Payame Noor University, Baha'is cannot enroll in universities and higher education centers," states the letter.

"Therefore, such cases if encountered should be reported, their enrollment should be strictly avoided, and if they are already enrolled they should be expelled."

Payame Noor University is "the largest state university in terms of student numbers and coverage," according to the university's website, with some 467,000 students in 74 degree programs at 257 study centers and units throughout the country.

So far this year, at least 30 Baha'i students have been expelled from Payame Noor.

To view the document in English, click here.
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To view the document in Persian click here.
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For more information about the expulsion of Baha'is from universities in Iran, click here.

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