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Letter to the Editor 03/23/12

Assault Against Higher Education

Imagine a society where a minority population was not allowed to attend school because their religious or ideological beliefs were not in line with the oppressive government of the land. Imagine that the resilience of the people rose above the oppression and developed their own system of education. Now imagine that time after time, the government destroyed the learning centers, confiscated books, and arrested teachers and administrators in an effort to keep the minority population uneducated and thus without real power.

No, this isn’t Poland in the 1940’s. It isn’t the Nazi regime. It is Iran in the 2000’s and it is the government of the Islamic Republic.

Now a campaign has been developed to address the Iranian government’s denial of the right to education for ideological and religious reasons. It is called Education Under Fire. It features a documentary that addresses the continued government-sanctioned persecution of specific groups in Iran and the blatant disregard of Article 26 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which guarantees education as an inalienable right of every human being. The Iranian government is signatory to this Declaration.

The film focuses on the experience of one among many persecuted Iranian groups, the Bahá’í community. In 1987, the semi-underground Bahá’í Institute for Higher Education (BIHE) was formed to give young Bahá’ís their only chance for a university-level education. Despite repeated raids and arrests, volunteer teachers and administrators created an independent, decentralized university system that has lifted the lives of thousands across Iran. The BIHE was referred to by the New York Times as “an elaborate act of communal self-preservation.”

In May 2011, an organized assault was launched by the Iranian government in an attempt to shut down the BIHE. Over 30 homes were raided and over a dozen BIHE professors and administrators were detained. Several are still in prison for doing nothing more than trying to teach. The Iranian government also bans students from pursuing higher education if they have expressed views, joined organizations or engaged in activities that are construed as critical of the government. In addition, the authorities have attempted to prevent instruction in several fields in the humanities and social sciences and have dismissed faculty for ideological reasons.

Iranian government officials need to hear the voices of people around the world who know what such policies provoke. As part of the Education Under Fire campaign, an online petition can be signed to voice concern over this illegal and inhumane deprivation of human rights. The petition can be found at www.educationunderfire.com. Click on “Drive to 25.” All that is required is your name and email address. The whole process takes less than three minutes. Seven Iranian government officials will receive a letter, each signed by 25,000 people who care. Please be one of them.
For more information, or to inquire about hosting a screening, contact:

Morvey Manshadi
Education Under Fire Task Force
lsa@louisvillebahai.org

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