The Board of Deputies and the Union of Jewish Students (UJS) are united in their condemnation of the arrest and detention of eleven senior Bahá’í educationalists in Iran. All eleven worked for the Bahá’í Institute for Higher Education (BIHE), established as a community initiative to meet the educational needs of young Bahá’ís who had been systematically denied access to Iran’s higher education system.
The arrest of the eleven Bahá’í educationalists follows years of state-sanctioned and targeted repression of Iran’s Bahá’í community, in repeated violation of Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), which guarantees freedom of religious expression.
Among other abuses, which include arbitrary arrests, Bahá’ís have been increasingly excluded from higher education institutions in the country over the last thirty-two years. Many Bahá’í academics have lost their posts and students who are found to be Bahá’ícontinue to be expelled on the basis of their religion. This is totally unacceptable and a violation of Article 27 of the UDHR, which guarantees all citizens the right to freely “participate in the cultural life of the community”.
In a peaceful and dignified response to their unacceptable exclusion from higher education facilities, Bahá’í academics sought to ensure the continued education of the community through the creation of the Bahá’í Institute for Higher Education (BIHE). They are now being punished for this initiative.
In the last couple of years, the British Jewish community has repeatedly raised its concern about the mistreatment of Iran’s Bahá’í minority. As of the beginning of August, over a hundred Bahá’ís are being held in Iran’s prisons. In addition to the eleven educationalists, these include seven of Iran’s Bahá’ís most senior leaders, who in some cases have been sentenced to twenty years in prison. The judicial processes that led to these sentences could charitably be described as opaque.
The mistreatment of religious minorities does not demonstrate a strong society. Only through fostering a culture of mutual respect can Iran progress to a legal and political situation worthy of all its citizens. The Board and the UJS believe that all people, and all Iranians, should be given equal access to higher education on the basis of merit, and not de-barred because of their religious beliefs. We call for the immediate release of the eleven imprisoned Bahá’í educationalists, as well as the others who have been detained or sentenced on the basis of their faith.