Slovak academics tell Iran to free Baha'i educators

September 18, 2012

BRATISLAVA, Slovakia — More than 80 leading academics are calling upon the Iranian government to end its persecution of Baha'i educators and students.

The Slovak Republic's former Prime Minister, Professor Iveta Radičová, and a former Education Minister, Professor Ján Pišút, are among the 84 prominent figures to sign an open letter, launched at a press conference here on Monday.

The letter expresses their "displeasure regarding the treatment of Baha'i students and teachers in Iran."

"These individuals are being punished by the state administration because of their efforts to become educated," it states.

The letter was drafted in response to the Iranian government's longtime policy of barring Baha'is from higher education as well as systematic efforts to shut down an informal Baha'i community initiative to educate its young people.

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Professor Ivan Kraus – pictured second from left – spoke at a press conference launching an open letter he signed along with more than 80 Slovak academics calling for an end to the persecution of Baha'i educators and students in Iran.

The signatories are calling upon the Iranian authorities to release a number of Baha'i educators who are currently serving four- or five-year jail terms. They also want Baha'i students to be given the same rights to education that Slovakia's academic institutions grant every student and teacher "regardless of tradition, religion or country of origin."

The open letter was prepared in cooperation with the president of the Institute for Public Affairs, Dr. Gregorij Mesežnikov. He told yesterday's press conference that he found it unconscionable for any government to deny rights to an entire group merely because of their belonging to a certain religion.

Welcoming the initiative, Jitka Spillerová of the Slovak Baha'i community said the academics "have sent a message to the Iranian government that they cannot hide the injustices they are committing against their country's Baha'is and other intellectuals – not even from a public that is so geographically distant."

In January this year, the Foreign Affairs Committee of the Slovak parliament issued a proclamation describing the Iranian government's incitement to hatred based on religion and belief as "abhorrent." It also demanded an end to Iran's "spiralling efforts to destroy the Iranian Baha'i community."