By Vahid Sadeghi
Translation by Iran Press Watch
After the Iranian Islamic Revolution, along with various oppressive acts against the Iranian Baha’i community, denial of higher education and coercion of Baha’i academics started when the Cultural Revolution began in 1980. This exclusion included layoffs of staff and professors who were adherents of the Baha’i Faith, as well as the expulsion of all Baha’i students, and preventing them from entering university in subsequent years.
Dismissal of Baha’i Employees and Professors
Before the revolution, several lecturers and associate professors, and a section of university employees were followers of the Baha’i Faith. Names such as Dr. Mohammad Bagher Houshyar, Dr. Jamaluddin Mostaghimi (the father of the study of anatomy in Iran), Dr. Alimorad Davoodi (kidnapped), Professor Manuchehr Hakim (assassinated), ِDr. Shapur Rasekh, Mr. Houshang Sayhoun, Dr. Khousro Mohandesi (executed ), Mrs. Jinous Mahmoudi (executed), Dr. Faramarz Samandari (executed), Dr. Mehri Rasekh, Dr. Muhammad Afnan, Dr. Farhang Holakouee, Dr. Talaat Bassari, Dr. Parvaiz Javid , Dr. Mahvash Nikjoo, Dr. Ebrahim Vahedian, Dr. Parvin Mottahedeh , Dr. Naim Khaze, Dr. Noureddin Habibi, Dr. Jaleh Mottahedin, Dr. Houshang Pakzad, Dr. Enayatollah Mazloumi, Dr. Esmail Ghadirian, Dr. Fuad Taghizadeh, Dr. Rahmatollah Eshraghi, and Mr. Kiumars Izadi are notable examples.
From 1979 to the beginning of the Cultural Revolution in 1980, gradually all professors who were still serving were faced with dismissal from university; yet despite their achievements at national and international levels, no change has occurred in their situation until now. It has been 30 years since any Iranian Baha’is have been hired at any Iranian university.
Expulsion of Baha’i students and deprivation of Baha’i youth
The First Phase (1979 to 1982)
In the summer of 1979 and during the first National Entrance Examination (Concours) after the revolution, Baha’is were still allowed to study; hundreds of Baha’i students after success in passing the National Entrance Examination found their way to universities. Also, hundreds of other Baha’i students who had entered university prior to the revolution were studying. Iranian universities were shut down for three years starting in 1980, on the occasion of the Cultural Revolution; after the reopening of the universities in 1983 and at the time of re-registration in July 1983, Baha’i university students found their names in the list of those deprived of education on the bulletin boards. Their numbers at that time were about 700; the cause of their expulsion was indicated in the dismissal orders presented to them: it was simply the first letter in the article “Dal” ‒ meaning they admitted being Baha’i.
The Second Phase (1983 to 1988)
During these five years, despite student’s persistent attempts to be reinstated, recourse to various legal avenues and the publication of their status in the media and at international conventions, none of the Baha’i students were able to go back, as the immovable condition of their return was to denounce their Baha’i religion; but a fundamental tenet of the Baha’is is that they do not believe in concealing their faith. While a countless number of students who had been expelled for alleged political tendencies gradually returned to college, Baha’is were not.
The Third Phase (1983 to 2004)
Fifteen years later, no change in the status of these expelled students had taken place. Each year tens of thousands of Baha’i youth who reached the age of higher education found themselves deprived, and gradually a generation of Baha’i Iranians deprived of higher education was formed beyond the doors of Iranian universities. At the same time, in these years a quantitative expansion of the capacity of the universities in the country occurred. According to official reports, students from 70 foreign countries, with different religions and nationalities, were studying at Iranian universities.
The Fourth Phase (2004 to the Present )
In the past five years, the pursuit of the Iranian Baha’i community for the realization of their right to education of Baha’i students and Baha’i citizens has continued, with many ups and downs.
In 2004, ultimately by the elimination of the “religion” column in the National Entrance Examination registration form,” a possibility was provided for Baha’i citizens to register for the entrance exam. Nearly 1,000 Baha’is, often without adequate preparation, participated in the exam that year. In fact, they had only been given the right to register for the entrance examination (but not to attend the Islamic Azad University). However, regardless of the first step, they have been faced with a new obstacle at every step each year. the non issuance of term reports as a result of having a fictitious “incomplete file”, non-announcement of matriculation, exclusion of individuals receiving high ranks in the exam, selective acceptance of a few people out of hundreds and unreasonable rejection of the rest: all are among the obstacles that these citizens have faced. Only in 2006, about 200 of them were accepted at universities but many of these, through a continuous process, were expelled from the colleges. In the middle of all this, there are Baha’i students who were expelled once in 1983, and once again they have been excluded at present, and to realize their rights, re-enroll in the university entrance exam. Attending the Entrance Exam and lack of access to higher education for reasons other than academic qualifications or expulsion after passing the exam on religious grounds overall has created a new and insecure situation, which those Iranian citizens who are followers of the Baha’i Faith have experienced all these years.
If for every year of educational deprivation for each student were considered one unit per person per year, It could be said that tens of thousands of Iranian Baha’is who make up a whole generation since 1983 up to now (2009) ‒ hundreds of thousands of people per year ‒ have been deprived of education. In fact, in today’s Iran, considering the phenomenon of the exclusion of Baha’is from higher education, we are witnessing a perfect example of a full-fledged cultural genocide. It introduces a living specimen for studying cultural exclusion ‒ which of course is deplorable.