Universal House of Justice addresses Iranian Baha'i students

14 September 2007

HAIFA, Israel — In the wake of new evidence that Iran has lied about its intention to allow Baha'i students into universities, the Universal House of Justice has sent a letter to Iranian Baha'i youth encouraging them to respond with composure, perseverance, and a redoubled commitment to work towards the common good in Iran.

"With an illumined conscience, with a world-embracing vision, with no partisan political agenda, and with due regard for law and order, strive for the regeneration of your country. By your deeds and services, attract the hearts of those around you, even win the esteem of your avowed enemies," wrote the Baha'i international governing council in a letter dated 9 September 2007.

The letter comes after disclosures that indisputably reveal the double game being played by the Iranian government in the execution of its long-term plan to block the development of the Iranian Baha'i community.

A major element of that plan has been to prevent Baha'i youth from obtaining higher education. More than half of the Baha'i students in university last year have been expelled for no reason other than their religion.

Recently, the Baha'i International Community disclosed the existence of a confidential government memorandum instructing Iranian universities to expel any student who is discovered to be a Baha'i, refuting statements by Iranian officials who say Baha'i students face no discrimination.

So far this year, more than 800 of the 1,050 Baha'is who sat for entrance examinations have not received their test results, allegedly because their files are "incomplete," even though Baha'is made every effort to comply with the application process. No explanation has been given to them as to how their applications were incomplete. Without the test results, the students have been unable to apply to university for the coming academic year.

"These official acts are disappointing and shameful," wrote the Universal House of Justice. "This action of the government in obstructing youth, Baha'i or otherwise, from access to higher education stands in contrast to the noble history of Iran's past attainments."

The letter recounts the long history of official government efforts to deprive Baha'is of access to higher education, noting that Baha'i students were initially banned from universities in Iran after the 1979 Islamic revolution.

"Then, consequent to a concerted worldwide effort - involving governments, educational institutions, nongovernmental organizations, and individuals - that raised questions about this situation, your government's representatives responded by averring that the reference to religion on the forms was not to identify university applicants by belief but only to specify the religion on which they wished to be examined."

Accordingly, "as a gesture of good will and so as to find a solution to an issue that adversely affects the good name of Iran, the Baha'i community accepted this apparent clarification. At long last, you were able to feel hopeful that the way would now be clear for you to continue your education," wrote the Universal House of Justice.

Recent events, however, "call to mind heart-rending episodes in the history of the Faith, of cruel deceptions wrought against your forebears," the letter continued. "It is only appropriate that you strive to transcend the opposition against you with that same constructive resilience that characterized their response to the duplicity of their detractors."

In that regard, the Universal House of Justice urged Iranian Baha'i youth to avoid any impulse to "rise against their oppressors," "flee for refuge," or "capitulate to their fate."

Rather, the Universal House of Justice wrote: "Service to others is the way. ... Strive to work hand-in-hand, shoulder-to-shoulder, with your fellow citizens in your efforts to promote the common good."

Letter of the Universal House of Justice in English.

Letter of the Universal House of Justice in Persian

Timeline of events in the Iranian government's effort to deny Baha'i youth access to higher education