(From MidEastYouth.org) One of the weapons the Iranian government has employed to suppress its Baha’i population is denying its youth their right to an education, in what can only be described as an intellectual cleansing.
Iran’s Ministry of “Justice” stipulates that Baha’is can enrol in schools (preferably ones with a strong religious ideology), provided that they do not disclose their religious affiliation. It therefore isn’t surprising that reports have emerged stating that Baha’i children often face conversion attempts.
But following the Revolution, the doors of higher educational institutions were slammed shut before Baha’is. Even the Baha’i Institution of Higher Education, an underground community-run initiative, was raided and closed down by authorities in 1998.
The Iranian government claims that it has changed its policies and now admits Baha’is into universities, but a memo sent out by Iran’s Ministry of Science, Research and Technology instructed all institutions to expel any student discovered to be a Baha’i.
Several Muslim students and faculty members spoke of feeling distraught at the unjust expulsion of their Baha’i brothers and sisters, but one group decided to take action and protest.
Mr. Ameed Saadat, an Iranian Baha’i, participated in Iran’s 2008 national university entrance examination and was accepted to study hotel management at Goldasht College in Kelardasht, Mazandaran, which is affiliated with the University of Applied Science and Technology in Tehran. He was able to begin studies, notwithstanding he had identified himself as a Baha’i on the college registration forms, which request ed the student’s religion. In the following weeks, he was told several times to change the information regarding his religion, which he declined to do. The day before his first-term final examinations were to begin, Mr. Saadat was informed by the director of the college that he was being expelled and would therefore not be permitted to sit for the examinations.
When Mr. Saadat’s fellow students asked why he had not been assigned a seat for the tests, they were told by a college official that Mr. Saadat had been dismissed on account of morality issues. However, when Mr. Saadat asked the official what precisely was his “moral problem,” the official responded by raising the issue of his religion and asked whether Mr. Saadat wanted the other students to be informed that his expulsion was to be on account of his adherence to the Baha’i Faith.
Mr. Saadat agreed, and when the announcement was made to his class of some 50 students, most of them objected, asking, “What does religion have to do with education?” The following day, 26 students refused to take the examination in protest against Mr. Saadat’s expulsion. Three of these students were then summoned by the Ministry of Information and questioned as to who had instigated the strike. They reported that they had informed the Information Ministry agents that the decision to protest had been of their own personal choices and that Mr. Saadat had in fact asked them not to take this action.
In his final contact with the college, Mr. Saadat was told by officials, “Your education has been terminated, and you can come and get your records. That is, your education has been nullified.”
“Iranian society rightfully places a high value on education, and the government’s debarring of Baha’is from universities clearly aims not only to diminish the future prospects of these young people but also to demoralize them and their families” said Ms. Kit Bigelow, Director of External Affairs for the National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha’is of the U.S. “It is therefore extremely encouraging to the Baha’is when, in incidents such as the one outlined above, their compatriots–often at considerable risk to themselves–take a firm stand against the deplorable behavior of the authorities.”
It’s through the self-less courage and pursuit of justice that positive change is brought about. We hope that more Iranian citizens begin to voice their objection to the persecution Iranian authorities subject the Baha’i minority to.