Father: “Don’t expect us to lie when you pose a question”
Fifteen-year-old Adib Vai has been expelled from a school for gifted students in Karaj, west of Tehran, solely because he is a member of the banned Baha’i faith, his father told the Center for Human Rights in Iran (CHRI).
“Salam is a special school for smart children with branches all over the country. We enrolled my son there after he finished elementary school,” Payam Vali, a member of the Baha’i faith said in an interview with CHRI on July 10, 2020.
“We were never given any forms that asked about religion and during his three years at the school he has been praised by the headmaster and the teaching staff many times. I was even elected as a member of the parents’ and teachers’ association when he was in 8th and 9th grade. In his 8th grade, I became the chairman of the association with the highest number of votes.
“Then when he completed 9th grade, Adib’s file was sent to another building for enrollment in the next level, which has a different administrative cadre. When we went to enroll last week, they were very happy to see him.
Student with Perfect Grades Forced to State His Religion
“Adib has been a model student during these past three years and his grade point average in the last quarterly exams was perfect. The average grade for all his subjects for the whole year was 99.1 percent, which was the highest among all the 63 students in his class. He also received a perfect grade for discipline and he won a title in an international scientific and research competition for elementary and junior high school students.
“The enrollment manager gave us several forms to fill. One of the forms was for personal information and one of the questions asked about religion. I consulted with Adib and we decided we cannot write a lie.
“The manager was surprised when he saw the form and asked if the 10th grade supervisor was aware of our Baha’i faith. I said he never asked us. He said, ‘Why did you write you are a Baha’i?’ I said, ‘Why did you ask about our religion? That’s against the Constitution; you are conducting an inquisition. Don’t expect us to lie when you pose a question.’
When School Learns Student Is a Baha’i, They Refuse Further Enrollment
“He said Adib’s case has to be referred to Salam’s head office in Tehran and they would let us know the result. On Wednesday [July 8, 2020] the school contacted us and said my son cannot continue his education there.”
Article 30 of Iran’s Constitution states, “The government must provide all citizens with free-education up to secondary school, and must expand free higher education to the extent required by the country for attaining self-sufficiency.”
However, Article 1 of Iran’s Supreme Cultural Revolution Council’s Student Qualification Regulations, approved by Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei in 1991, mandates that students who take the national enrollment exam must either be Muslim or followers of the other religions that are officially recognized in the Iranian constitution (Christianity, Judaism and Zoroastrianism). Article 3 states that a student can be expelled if discovered to be a Baha’i after enrolling in a university.
Although there are no laws or regulations banning pre-university schools from accepting Baha’i students, in September 2019, Education Minister Mohsen Haji-Mirzaei said students would be expelled if they declare belief in a religion other than those officially approved. Adib’s father added: “The school’s action is completely arbitrary. They are denying Adib from going to school only because he wrote he’s a Baha’i in answer to a question. I hope the school board will reconsider this discriminatory decision… If they don’t do so in the next few days, we might have to take legal steps to defend our rights.”
Baha’is Subjected to Most Severe Persecution in Iran
Payam Adib’s eyeglass lens manufacturing business in the Nazarabad district of Karaj has been shut down since 2008 because of his Baha’i beliefs. The shuttering of Baha’i-owned businesses and the confiscation of their land is routine in Iran.
“I went to see the new prosecutor in our district and requested to reopen my shop but he said I could not because I’m a Baha’i. I have been fighting for my rights through legal channels for 12 years. I’ve given up,” Vali told CHRI.
While discrimination against all of Iran’s religious minorities is significant and widespread, the Baha’i religious community in Iran is considered the most severely persecuted in the country, discriminated against in both law and practice.
In addition to exclusion from schools and employment, the shuttering of its businesses and the confiscation of Baha’i-owned land, leaders of the Baha’i community are routinely imprisoned for many years simply for openly practicing their faith and peacefully leading their communities.
Read this article in Persian.