Education: A Historical Commitment of the Baha'is of Iran

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fn14086_nn4734_74_tarbiyyatWhile exclusion from education is a grievous wrong in any circumstances, the situation for Iranian Baha’is is compounded by the degree to which the sacred writings of the Baha’i Faith stress the primary importance of education in fostering humanity’s material, social, and spiritual advancement and the strong history of the Iranian Baha’i community in seeking and providing education.

Baha’u’llah, the Prophet-Founder of the Baha’i Faith, wrote:

Regard man as a mine rich in gems of inestimable value. Education can, alone, cause it to reveal its treasures, and enable mankind to benefit therefrom.

Since the earliest days of the Baha’i Faith, its followers have been deeply engaged in promoting learning and knowledge, establishing and operating schools, and seeking the best possible educational opportunities for their children and the children of others.

Nowhere has this been truer than in Iran, the birthplace of the Baha’i revelation and, until the persecutions that followed the establishment of the Islamic Republic in 1979, one of the best developed national Baha’i communities in the world.


Since the earliest days of the Baha’i Faith, its followers have been deeply engaged in promoting learning and knowledge, establishing and operating schools, and seeking the best possible educational opportunities for their children and the children of others.

As early as the 1880s, small village-level schools were started by Baha’is in Iran, and the establishment of major primary and secondary schools in urban centers soon followed.

Around 1900, for example, the Tarbiyat School for Boys was founded in Tehran, and by 1911 the ground-breaking Tarbiyat School for Girls had been established.

Other Baha’i schools likewise quickly sprang up in Hamadan, Qazvin, Kashan, and Barfurush.

The schools were open to all and many children who were not from Baha’i families enrolled. About half of the students in the schools in Tehran were not Baha’i, for example.

By 1920, some 10% of the estimated 28,000 primary and secondary school children in Iran were enrolled in Baha’i-run schools.

Although exact figures are hard to come by, it appears that more than 50 schools were founded and operated by Baha’is through the first half of the 20th century.

Sadly, most of the Baha’i schools were closed by government decree in the mid-1930s in an episode of religious persecution. By that time, the schools had gained considerable prominence as top-notch institutions and had attracted numerous students from prominent families. Shown in the picture are participants in Baha’i classes in Tehran with their teachers, in a photograph taken on 13 August 1933.

The government of Reza Shah, as part of a policy of standardization and Iranianization of all social institutions in the country, demanded that the Baha’i schools close only on government-specified holidays. Baha’i communities, however, required by the principles of their Faith to close also on Baha’i holy days, refused to comply. In response, government officials suspended their licenses.

The Baha’i community’s strong commitment to education nevertheless remained. Baha’i parents sent their children to the then expanding network of state-run schools and also set up special classes in private homes to ensure continuing training in moral and religious education.

By the time of the mid-to-late 1970s, just prior to the establishment of the Islamic Republic, the Baha’i community was perhaps the best educated group in Iran, with many of its members working as doctors, lawyers, engineers, educators, and other professionals at the top levels of society.

Overall, this emphasis on education had a remarkable effect on the Iranian Baha’i community. By 1973, for example, literacy among Baha’i women under forty had reached nearly 100%, in contrast to a national literacy rate among women of less than 25%.

[Extracted and edited from: http://denial.bahai.org/003.php.]

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