In the charged atmosphere after the CIA-supported military coup of August 1953 which brought Muhammad-Reza Pahlavi back to the throne and suppressed a popular uprising in support of Dr. Mohammad Mosaddeq, university students in Iran demonstrated on 7 December 1953 against the visit of the American vice-president Richard Nixon to Iran. The student protest was crushed by the Shah’s army, and three students — Shariat Razavi, Ghandchi and Bozorgnia — were shot dead. This day has never been forgotten by the students of Iran, and 7 December (16 Azar) has been known as Student Day ever since.
This year on the occasion of the commemoration of this event, the following open letter was published by two Baha’i students who have been barred from university education because they are Baha’is.
With greetings and salutations to all Iranian students on this Student Day!
On 16 Azar 1322 [7 December 1953], the blood of three brilliant university students was spilled for the sake of combating injustice and promoting Iranian nationality and culture. Now, 55 years later, as we once again recall that day, a large number of Iranian youth have been deprived of university education on the charge of heterodox thinking.
It is more than 30 years since the Baha’is of Iran have been dispossessed of their civil and natural rights. Until 2004, they were not even permitted to participate in the national college entrance exam. Since then, while some of these Baha’i students have managed to gain admittance to university, gradually they have been expelled. At the present time only a few Baha’i students remain in Iranian institutions of higher education – moreover, the sole reason for the presence of even those few is to prevent an outcry by international agencies opposing this outrageous breach of civil rights.
Each year, thousands of Baha’i youth are added to the rank of their co-religionists who are barred from university education, and this cultural crime devours a larger number every year.
This tragedy is taking place in contradiction of Article 26 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which states, “Everyone has the right to education.” Similarly, no provisions or articles of the Constitution of the Islamic Republic can be found in support of exclusion of the Baha’i students from education in their own country. Indeed, according to Articles 3, 14, 19, 20 and 23 of that same foundational document, the right of education is stated to be available to the entire population of Iran. Furthermore, it is completely void of merit to suggest that the regulation of the Council of the Cultural Revolution on 69/12/6 [25 February 1991] requires that Baha’is be barred from education, inasmuch as such a regulation has never been seen among the regulations promulgated by that Council.
Have the instigators of this tragedy ever checked their own consciences? Do they not worry how history will remember them? Of a certainty, the historical memory of the people of Iran is not so frail that they would so quickly forget the services of Baha’i students to this land. The instigators of this cultural crime should become aware that the memory of the people of Iran spans more than 30 years of their history.
We are confident that Iranian universities have not forgotten their Baha’i professors and students.
We are confident that Sherriff University (previously known as Aryamehr University) has not forgotten its young [Baha’i] designer – a youth who had no desire for any financial compensation for his work, and who considered his labor to be his duty to his country and to the school which had nurtured him. He even paid for the paper used in the design of this university, a place where today the great minds of tomorrow are trained. Sherriff University is a spot which this very day witnessed ceremonies marking Student Day – on a day when the co-religionists of that young architect, Hossein Amanat, have been deprived of education in their own country. It was the same 24-year old architectural student [Amanat] who designed the Azadi Tower (previously known as Shahyad), which was yet another service he rendered to his country.
Iranian women who are also observing this year’s Student Day have not forgotten that after the Constitutional Revolt [of 1905-11], the first girls’ school, known as Madrisih Tarbiyat, was inaugurated by their Baha’i countrymen in 1909, against the severe opposition of the clerics and the repressive atmosphere of that age. How strange that today, the children of those who instituted that school are themselves deprived of education!
We are confident the Iranian nation and her students will not forget us, and that they too need to be confident that our 30-year absence from the scholastic scene has not made us forget our countrymen. Students should all know that on the Day of Student, even though we are not with them in person, we are with them in heart and spirit, and stand among them in our souls.
We long for the day that we can commemorate this Day next to our esteemed brethren, regardless of whatever belief or religion they may have. The crowded and precious history of this land has proven time and again that Iranians, though they may come from diverse backgrounds, beliefs and races, yet they are always united, and under all conditions they exert their utmost to achieve unity in diversity.
In hope of seeing justice,
Navid Khanjani and Hesam Misaqi
[On Sunday, 7 December 2008, the above letter was posted by Iran Press News at http://www.iranpressnews.com/source/050681.htm. It was also posted by Human Rights Activists of Iran at http://hrairan.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=13:-16-&catid=31:2008-12-06-06-28-40&Itemid=58Neither of these agencies has any association with the Baha’is of Iran or of any other country. Translated by Ahang Rabbani. ]