Letter to the editor, London Timesn

Bahai education blocked in Iran
From Professor Sir Richard Doll
and others

Sir, The Bahai faith, which was founded 150 years ago in Iran, advocates non-violence and toleration of all other religious beliefs. With 300,000 adherents it remains the largest non-Muslim religious minority in Iran, despite persecution.

Following the 1979 Islamic revolution, Bahais were at first barred from all forms of education and any Bahai teachers were to be dismissed from their jobs. Although their access to school education was reinstated in the late 1980s, access to university education was not: a Supreme Revolutionary Council decree of February 25, 1991, stated that:

The Government's dealings with the Bahais must be such that their progress is blocked . . . they must be expelled from universities, either in the admission process or during the course of their studies, once it becomes known that they are Bahais.

Hence, for the past decade the Iran- ian Bahai community has organised an open-university style "Bahai Institute of Higher Education". But, in October 1998, 36 members of its faculty were arrested (of whom four remain in prison). At the same time, 500 Bahai homes were raided and textbooks, computers and furniture were seized by the Government's intelligence agency. (When queried about the seizure of the personal household effects, the officers claimed they had been authorised by the Ministry of Information to take anything they wished.)

Iran is signatory to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which condemns religious discrimination, and as the nation modernises it will have to find ways of accommodating not only the Christian but also the Bahai community. Freedom for religious belief is an essential component of academic freedom, and we call on Islamic scholars to help re-establish, in Iran and elsewhere, the tradition of tolerance that has characterised some of the greatest Muslim civilisations.


Yours etc,

RICHARD DOLL,
Department of Medicine,
University of Oxford,
RICHARD GOMBRICH,
Oriental Institute,
RICHARD PETO,
Department of Medical Statistics
and Epidemiology,
RICHARD PRING,
Department of Educational Studies,
KEITH WARD,
Department of Theology,
c/o The Radcliffe Infirmary,
Oxford OX2 6HE.
February 8.