by Tara Abhasakun
In February 2015, a concert was held in Los Angeles in support of the “Education is Not a Crime” campaign, founded by Canadian Muslim journalist Maziar Bahari in support of Baha’i students in Iran. Baha’is are Iran’s largest religious minority, comprising approximately 300,000 Iranian citizens. Since the inception of the Baha’i Faith in 1844, Iranian Baha’is have been violently persecuted. This persecution is because the Baha’i prophet, Baha’u’llah, claimed that Mohammad is not the last prophet (to Shi’ite clerics, this is apostasy).
Today, violent persecution is much less common, although Baha’is still experience a tremendous amount of societal discrimination. One form of oppression is discrimination with respect to higher education. Baha’i youth are denied the right to attend colleges and universities in Iran. In response, Baha’is created the Baha’i Institute of Higher Education (BIHE), an underground university that holds classes in the homes of students and professors. Many BIHE students and faculty have been arrested. In response, Baha’i and non-Baha’i Iranians, both in the diaspora and in Iran, have made efforts to support BIHE. Mr. Bahari created a campaign titled “Education is Not a Crime,” in which citizens of diverse backgrounds from around the world sent videos in which they voiced their support for BIHE and stated that education was not a crime.
In the summer of 2015, “Education is Not a Crime” launched the “Paint the Change” campaign in New York, London, and other cities around the world. During “Paint the Change,” artists and other citizens spray-painted murals reading “education is not a crime” on city walls. They then used social media to publicize their artwork and the message behind it.
Anyone can participate in “Paint the Change” by following the directions on this link http://www.paintthechange.me/take-action-street-art-handbook/. The next campaign will be held in Tacoma, Washington, on October 9th, 2015 https://www.facebook.com/events/1483018875346223/