Heads of medical schools urge Iran to release jailed Baha'i educators

8 December 2011

WASHINGTON, D.C., United States — Almost 50 leaders of medical education in the United States have joined the worldwide protest against the Iranian government’s persecution of Baha’i students and educators.

Forty-eight Deans and Senior Vice-Presidents – who between them head more than a third of American medical schools – have signed an open letter addressed to Iran’s representative to the United Nations. The letter was published on the Persian-language “Association Against Education Discrimination” website on 7 December – the day that Iranian student movements annually commemorate Student Day.

“We are writing as individuals who are leaders of globally recognized educational institutions to voice our concern about the treatment of Baha’i students and educators in Iran,” the letter says.

“As leaders of medical education, we believe that education is an inherent human right. At our respective institutions, we have hosted and continue to host students, residents, fellows, and faculty irrespective of their religious beliefs from all over the world. We have welcomed this diverse population into our educational communities to contribute to the discovery and dissemination of knowledge for the benefit of humanity.”

The letter’s chief signatory – Dr. Philip Pizzo, Dean of Stanford University’s School of Medicine – helped collect the signatures last month at the annual meeting of the Association of American Medical Colleges’ Council of Medical School Deans.

The statement details the systematic attack launched by Iranian authorities against an informal community initiative – known as the Baha’i Institute for Higher Education (BIHE) – which was set up to provide education for young Baha’is barred from university. Seven Baha’is associated with BIHE are now serving four- and five-year jail terms.

“The arresting of BIHE faculty and administrators as well as the banning of generations of Baha’is from education solely on the basis of their religious background are violations of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted by the United Nations in 1948, and the International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights to which Iran is a State Party,” the letter continues.

“We therefore urge your government to release the instructors and administrators of BIHE from prison. We also request that your government extend Baha’i students and faculty in Iran the same rights to education that we offer every student and professor at our institutions regardless of their heritage, religion or country of origin.”

The open letter was published on the same day that the situation of Baha’i educators and students was raised in a joint statement by an international group of lawmakers – US Senators Mark Kirk and Joseph Lieberman, Canadian MP Irwin Cotler, British MP Denis MacShane, Australian MP Michael Danby, Italian MP Fiamma Nirenstein, and Lithuanian MP Emanuelis Zingeris.

Continuing outcry

These latest actions come just days after Senator Mobina Jaffer, Canada’s first Muslim senator, told a Canadian Senate enquiry that it was "unprecedented" that Iran has now criminalized the education of young people.

The condemnation of the imprisonment of the seven Baha’i educators has spanned the world. UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon has led the criticism of their sentences, along with such prominent figures as Nobel Peace Prize laureates Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Jose Ramos-Horta, and Lieutenant-General Roméo Dallaire, the former UN peacekeeping force commander who tried to stop the 1990s genocide in Rwanda.

In October, some 43 distinguished philosophers and theologians in 16 countries signed an open letter protesting against the attack on BIHE.

In Germany, some 45 prominent professors have demanded the immediate release of the seven, while in Australia, letters of protest have been sent by 73 university academics, and Universities Australia, representing the vice-chancellors of all Australian universities.

Last month, more than 50 academics in Ireland called upon the Iranian authorities to allow access to higher education for all, while 26 professionals from the cinema industry urged the government of Brazil to defend the rights of filmmakers, journalists and Baha'i educators and called upon Iran to immediately release those imprisoned.

Signatories

Philip Pizzo MD – Dean, Stanford University School of Medicine

Stephen K. Klasko MD MBA – CEO USF Health; Dean University of South Florida College of Medicine

D. Craig Brater MD – Dean, Indiana University School of Medicine

Lois Margaret Nora MD MBA – Interim President/Dean, Commonwealth Medical College

Jerry R. Youkey MD – Founding Dean, University of South Carolina School of Medicine, Greenville

Robert Folberg MD – Founding Dean, Oakland University William Beaumont School of Medicine

James Woolliscroft MD – Dean, University of Michigan Medical School

Paul Katz MD – Founding Dean, Cooper Medical School of Rowan University

J. Kevin Dorsey MD PhD – Dean & Provost, Southern Illinois University School of Medicine

Harold L. Paz MD MS – Senior VP for Health Affairs, Dean Penn State College of Medicine

Terence R. Flotte MD – Dean, Provost & Exec. Dep. Chancellor, University of Massachusetts Medical School

Marsha D. Rappley MD – Dean, Michigan State University, College of Human Medicine

M. Dewayne Andrews MD – Sr. VP & Provost & Executive Dean, University of Oklahoma College of Medicine

Paul B. Roth MD – Chancellor & Dean, University of New Mexico-Health Sciences Center

Larry W. Laughlin MD, PhD – Dean, Uniformed Services University School of Medicine

Thomas L. Schwenk MD – Dean, VP Health Sciences, University of Nevada Reno

Steven Berk MD – Dean, Executive VP, Texas Tech University, Health Sciences Center

Mark B. Taubman MD – Dean, VP Health Sciences, University of Rochester

Peter S. Amenta MD PhD – Dean, UMDNJ, Robert Wood Johnson Medical School

Lawrence G. Smith MD – Dean, Hofstra University, School of Medicine, North Shore LIJ

Robert L. Johnson MD – Dean, UMDNJ, New Jersey Medical School

Steven J. Scheinman MD – Dean Emeritus, Upstate Medical University

S. Ray Mitchell MD – Dean, Georgetown University, School of Medicine

Frederick Morin MD – Dean, University of Vermont, College of Medicine

Michael E. Cain MD – Dean, VP for Health Sciences, University at Buffalo

John P. Fogarty MD – Dean, Florida State University, College of Medicine

Ralph A. O’Connell MD – Dean & Provost, New York Medical College

John A. Rock MD – Dean & Senior VP for Medical Affairs, Florida International University

William L. Roper MD – Dean & CEO, University of North Carolina, School of Medicine

Charles J. Lockwood MD – Dean & VP, Ohio State University, Medical Center

Paul R. Cunningham MD – Dean, East Carolina University, The Brody School of Medicine

B. P. Sachs MD – SVP & Dean, Tulane University, School of Medicine

Charles P. Mouton MD – Dean & Senior VP, Meharry Medical College, School of Medicine

Jeff Susman MD – Dean, Northeastern Ohio

Betty M. Drees MD – Dean, University of Missouri – Kansas City, School of Medicine

Pamela B. Davis MD PhD – Dean & VP for Medical Affairs, Case Western Reserve University, School of Medicine

Paul Rothman MD – Dean, University of Iowa Carver College of Medicine

Wiley Souba MD – VP for Health Affairs & Dean, Dartmouth Medical School

Roger Hadley MD – Dean, Loma Linda University

Thomas A. Deutsch MD – Dean, Rush University, Chicago, Medical College

Debra H. Fiser MD – Dean, University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences

Larry Shapiro MD – Dean, Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis

Daniel V. Schidlow MD – Interim Dean, Drexel University College of Medicine

Valerie Montgomery Rice MD – Executive VP & Dean, Morehouse School of Medicine

Peter F. Buckley MD – Dean, Georgia Health Sciences University, Medical College of Georgia

Mark S. Johnson MD – Dean, Howard University

Andrew L. Chesson MD – Dean, LSU Health Shreveport

Karen Antman MD – Dean, Provost Boston University School of Medicine

Baha'i World News Service coverage of the persecution of the Baha'is in Iran

The Baha'i World News Service has published a Special Section which includes further articles and background information about Iran's campaign to deny higher education to Baha'is. It contains news of latest developments, a summary of the situation, profiles of imprisoned Baha'i educators, feature articles, case studies and testimonials from students, resources and links.

Another Special Report offers articles and background information about the seven Iranian Baha'i leaders – their lives, their imprisonment, trial and sentencing – and the allegations made against them. It also offers further resources about the persecution of Iran's Baha'i community.

The International Reaction page of the Baha'i World News service is regularly updated with responses from governments, nongovernmental organizations, and prominent individuals, to actions taken against the Baha'is of Iran.

The Media Reports page presents a digest of media coverage from around the world.