Iranian Baha'i told "Your Education has been Terminated"

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by Barney Leith

Like thousands of other hopeful young Iranians Ameed Saadat sat Iran’s 2008 national university entrance examination. He passed was accepted to study hotel management at Goldasht College in Kelardasht, Mazandaran, and began his studies.

Sadly, though, Mr Saadat suffers from a severe disability as far as the Iranian authorities are concerned. He is a Baha’i – and he says so publicly. The college’s registration form requires students to identify their religion. Ameed, being honest (as Baha’is should be) had identified himself as a Baha’i.

Deny that you’re a Baha’i or else…

In the following weeks he was told several times by the college authorities to change the information on the form about his religion. He refused to do.


You can’t sit our exams

The day before his first-term examinations were to begin the college director told Ameed that he was being expelled and would therefore not be allowed to sit the examinations.

“Morality issues”

When Ameed’s fellow students found out that he was being excluded from the exams, they were outraged. They demanded to know why the college had done this.

A college official told them that he’d been dismissed on account of “morality issues”.

Ameed asked the official what precisely his “moral problem” was.

Do you want other students to know you’re a Baha’i?

The official responded by raising the issue of religion. With some excitement he asked if Ameed wanted the students to be told that he was being expelled because of his adherence to the Baha’i Faith.

Ameed said yes, he would like the other students to be told this. When the announcement was made to his class of around 50 students, most of them objected. “What does religion have to do with education?” they wanted to know.

Exam strike in sympathy

The following day, 26 students refused to take the end-of-term exam in protest against Ameed’s expulsion. Three of the students were summoned by the Ministry of Information and questioned by agents about who had instigated the strike. They reported that they had told the Information Ministry agents that the decision to protest had been their personal choice and that Mr. Sa‘ádat had in fact asked them not to take this action.

Your education has been nullified

In his final contact with the College, Ameed Saadat was told by management officials, “Your education has been terminated, and you can come and get your records. That is, your education has been nullified.”

Impact of denial of access to education

Iran rightly places a very high value on education. So stopping young Baha’is from going to university is clearly intended to spoil their life chances and to demoralize them and their families. From time to time I meet young Baha’is who’ve studied at the Baha’i Institute for Higher Education and who’ve been able to come to the UK to study for Masters degrees. They are bright and personable, with no sign of resentment, and it is difficult to imagine the impact on them of being told that they cannot go to universities in their own country purely because they are Baha’is.

Encouragement

How encouraging it must be to young Baha’is who are trying to get into universities and colleges in Iran when their fellow non-Baha’i students take a firm stand – often at great risk to themselves – against the outrageous behaviour of the authorities towards the Baha’is.

Source: Barney Leith at http://www.leithjb.net/blog/2008/11/30/iranian-bahai-told-your-education-has-been-terminated/

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