Translation by Iran Press Watch
The horrible events of recent days in Iran are so fastidiously attacking our minds and souls that it makes us ruthlessly welcome the news of a new tragedy to forget about the disasters of the days before. The announcement by the Minister of Education of Iran before the start of the school year that Baha’i children would not be allowed to go to elementary school or high school was a new shock that struck significant groups of Iran’s justice-seeking community, both inside and outside the country. Sadly, this event was shadowed by news the following day of new suffering, frustration, and serious concern for Iran’s future. The story of Baha’i children became old news, and lifelong writing hands and lifelong speaking tongues could not help to sustain this news in the real and online media.
What was the news that got lost?
On Wednesday, September 9th, on the sideline of a cabinet meeting about the education of students of religious minorities in schools, the Minister of Education, Mohsen Haji Mirzaei, announced: “If a student declares that they are a follower of any religion other than the officially recognized religions [Islam, Christianity, Judaism or Zoroastrianism], that act of declaration will be considered to be ‘propaganda’, and consequently they will not be allowed to attend school.”
This news was a sign of a new offensive campaign against the security and peace of mind of Baha’i students between the ages of 7 and 18. These talks in disguise raised a new alarum in the Iranian Baha’i community. Clearly, Baha’is are the largest minority in Iran. The Constitution of the Islamic Republic has recognized only three minority religions: Christianity, Judaism, and Zoroastrianism. When there is a call for the oppression of informal religious minorities, their arrow is pointed at a specific target. For more than a century, it has been aimed at Baha’is, who have been burned in their geographical and religious homeland by the fire of mullahs and their zealous, brainwashed followers.
It is apparent that the birthplace of the Baha’i Faith is the land of Iran. It is obvious that the birthplace of the Baha’i leaders is in that very same land. Clearly, the emergence of the “Bab” [the Forerunner of the Baha’i Faith] opened an entrance to a new intellectual space in Iran and helped progressive ideas flourish. The courageous collective efforts of Babis along with the help of experienced and progressive Muslims has facilitated the achievement of a new and modern life in Iran.
This short article is not about telling the plight of the Baha’is in Iran – the birthplace of their religion – and their progressive aspirations for their homeland. Rather it focuses on the terrified and trembling Baha’i children who left the warmth of their families’ hugs this year to go to school, a place where children are supposed to be happy and take lessons in human dignity. They sat at their benches shaken and unsure of their future in school, where they were supposed to become acquainted with terms like equity and fairness and learn the historical process of seeking justice in their homeland. Fearing expulsion from schools, Baha’i children must leave their beliefs and their family’s cultural tradition at home at tender ages, while a child, against the nature of childhood and adolescence, is fearful of giving contradicting statements.
The press in the country willingly did not cover this degree of cruelty to Baha’i children and adolescents. They only wrote the Minister’s statement and went after foreign policy news. They did not say that this act of intimidation violated even their own constitution. They did not write that these educational policies were a clear violation of constitutional principles. And, of course, they did not intend to invoke the provisions of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other articles of the Civil and Political Rights and Economic and Social Rights and the Convention on the Rights of the Child. Particularly, they did not refer to the point that the Islamic Republic of Iran has passed these laws in the Majlis (Senate) and is subject to the rule of law as required by Article 6 of the Civil Code. All of these things were untold.
Baha’i children are left with their fears. They do not know how to behave in a school that is supposed to be a haven for them, their second home, so as not to fall into the trap of those who interrogate them about their beliefs. Who are these interrogators? Of course, the Muslim kids who are innocently commissioned with this task. Two kinds of Iranian children are victimized in dealing with this issue; the Baha’i child who is always forced to hide in their cocoon, and the Muslim child and other classmates who, as inquisitors, depart from moral values.
We know that Article 23 of the Constitution of the Islamic Republic basically prohibits any such inquisition; however, the inquisition of children’s beliefs began on February 1, 1978 (the day the revolution began). Every night, Muslims had to give their youngsters an hour of advice not to report their mother not wearing hijab and not praying at home, or not to divulge that their father drank and listened to BBC Radio! We filled the lives of our innocent children with a lot of fears to keep ourselves safe! Those were the days of Muslim children. Families were not afraid of revolutionary courts as much as they feared school-based inquisitors.
Beyond these emotional concerns, we return to Article 30 of the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Iran that states that the government is obliged to provide educational opportunities and facilities for all Iranian children who wish to attend elementary or high schools. The Constitution does not discriminate against any Iranian children. They are all citizens of Iran and the government must provide for their education.
Article 31 states:
“The government is responsible for providing free education for all citizens by the end of high school period. It must also extend free access to higher education when possible.”
If there were impartial and independent legal authorities in Iran and the protection of the same Jurisprudence Constitution were truly practiced by the leaders of the country, then we would not have heard statements such as that of the Minister of Education. He would be legally impeached for disobeying the Constitution, and lose his job and position.
On the other hand, a proposed plan was signed by 38 representatives on “Drafting two Amended Articles to the Islamic Penal Code”, and was registered in open session of the Islamic Republic Assembly No. 269 on July 9, 2018. It is emphasized in its introduction that “the necessity to criminalize the formation and propagation of sectarianism, dissemination of devious thoughts, atheism and excommunication is imminent, and it is up to the Islamic Consultative Assembly to swiftly adopt the appropriate law.”
This plan, which has powerful supporters behind it, is a dangerous tyrannical act that, given the wording used in it, ould deprive Baha’is of even more of their citizenship rights in their own home country. The rights to enjoy life and engage in doing business, to assemble at their homes, and the right to an education. The concern seemingly addressed in the provisions of this plan is the rise of another hate-based cult such as “Islamic State” or some other fanatical extremists. It resorts to all the historical rhetoric and false accusations made against Baha’is very shrewdly in order to enact a law that equates this peace-loving, ethical minority with such insurgent sects of assassins, and create the necessary legal documentation to repress them.
The theme of the plan is this:
Single (Suggested) Article: Two articles, Articles 499 and 500, consecutively to be added to Chapter 1 of the Penal Code of the Islamic Penal Code adopted in the year 1997.
Extensive campaigns more than initially intended are in motion to force Baha’is, these lovers of Iran, to flee their beloved homeland if they want to provide education for their deprived children somewhere else. The plan is to portray them as criminals and push them toward forced emigration.
The intensified set of behaviors towards Baha’is that is now targeting children at the tender ages of 6 and 7 necessitates a thorough investigation by the Special Rapporteur on Human Rights for Iran and similar agencies to sensitively inform governments and make the world aware of these plans. So long as this political system is in place, apart from exploiting overseas awareness Baha’is have no opportunity to seek justice domestically. The plan is to eradicate the educated and peace-loving Baha’is from Iran at the request of the ruling clerics. All efforts should be made to stop this plan from succeeding.