That education is a universal right is a principle enshrined in both the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and, for a large part, in the psyche of humanity. Therefore, the idea that one would be barred from higher education based on one’s religious convictions becomes absurd at best. This is the absurd reality that the Iranian Baha’i Community knows far too well.
Baha’i students are barred from attending university in Iran solely based on their religious convictions. In response to this continual deprivation of educational access the Iranian Baha’i Community formed its own institute of higher learning (BIHE) (http://news.bahai.org/human-rights/iran/education/). This peaceful institution has sought to provide an alternative of hope for Baha’i students in Iran.
With each passing year BIHE has seen increased pressure and repression of its work. In one sweeping blow, this past May, 16 Baha’is were detained and 30 homes associated with staff and faculty of the Baha’i Institute for Higher Education were raided. Most recent information indicates that 11 of these individuals remain in prison. In addition, press reports in Iran have recently announced that BIHE has been declared illegal.
The Baha’i International Community has responded with an open letter to Kamran Daneshjoo, Iran’s Minister of Science, Research and Technology, asking him “How is it that a government would debar a population of young citizens from access to higher education and then, when their families, with the help of one another, make private arrangements that bring them together in their homes to study such subjects as physics and biology, pronounce such activity to be ‘illegal’ by citing law that are in fact intended to guide the operation of educational institutions that serve the general public”?
In this situation one need not feel helpless and can in fact take action. A group of individuals have launched a campaign called “Can You Solve This?” which can be followed in the following link:
If we regard access to education more than simply the process of enrolling in classes, but rather a foundation upon which one’s careers, dreams, and capacity to serve one’s communities and country is built, the actions of the Iranian government become even more unacceptable. For those of us outside of Iran, now is the chance to speak out in defense of the thousands of young people, Baha’i or otherwise, who face increasing pressure and censorship as a result of a discriminatory education system.
The full content of this letter can be viewed here: