Bahai News - Bahais claim mistreatment in Iran December 1, 1998


Bahais claim mistreatment in Iran

By Lisa Bernard

   Next time you're sitting in class, yawning at the boring lecture you've been listening to for the past hour, be thankful.
    Be thankful that you can sit there and receive an education. Be thankful you live in country that cannot deny you that education, your freedom of speech, or your freedom of religion.
    For the Bahai students of Iran, these "freedoms" do not exist, say Bahais. They do not exist because the government of Iran has denied Bahais these freedoms because of their religious beliefs, according to Bahais.
    As hard as it may be to understand such a concept here in the "U.S. of A," the situation is indeed true, Bahais say. Bahais, members of the largest minority religion in Iran, are being robbed of basic human rights because of the religion they practice, they contend.
    They point to several instances of mistreatment towards Bahais by the Shiite Muslim Government since the Islamic Revolution in 1979. Founded less than 150 years ago, Bahai believers have reportedly suffered severe discrimination because the Iranian government doesn't recognize any religion that came after Mohammed.
    In Iran, Bahais cannot elect leaders. They cannot hold positions of authority. Their marriages are not recognized, their religious properties are taken away, and their youth are denied higher education.
    In response to such mistreatment, the Bahai Institute of Higher Education (BIHE) was formed in 1987 as an attempt to give Bahai youth access to the education they were denied. Most classes were completed via correspondence, but some scientific courses were held privately in homes. A few scientific laboratories were constructed in small, privately-owned buildings in Tehran.
   Operating as silently as possible, the university grew to over 900 students and 150 volunteer faculty members. Indiana University helped supply the school with text books and other materials. Since its opening in 1987, almost 150 Bahai students have received bachelors degrees in ten possible majors.
    But in September of this year, the Iranian government shut down BIHE. At least 39 professors were arrested, 500 homes raided, and all educational materials confiscated, say Bahais. Bahai students' last chance at receiving a college education in Iran was taken away, they say.
    Juliet Martinez, President of UIC's Bahai Club, said, "We are extremely troubled with the treatment of Bahais in Iran."
    Bahai is a worldwide independent religion with a following of about six million people. According to Martinez, the Bahai faith is based on three main principles: the unity of humanity, the oneness of God, and the oneness of religion. They believe in complete equality of all humanity and peace.
    "Everything we do attempts to bring people together in some way," said Martinez.
    Bahais believe that in order to better humanity, education is a must. In fact, it is a Bahai law to have a career and to be educated. Martinez quoted the law as, "Man is a mine rich in gems and lack of a proper education has kept these gems hidden."
    Not only are Bahai students in Iran being denied their human right to an education, they are not able to fulfill one of their main religious beliefs, Bahais say.
    UIC's Bahai Club is in the process of setting up an open house with university faculty members to inform them of the situation in Iran, with a possible presentation from one BIHE graduate.
    "We want to inform people and let them know this is happening," explained Martinez.
    The open house is an attempt to take action against Bahai mistreatment in Iran. The club's main objective is for the university to write a resolution or letter to the United Nations, protesting the situations as a violation of human rights.
    Martinez made it clear that the conflict is not with Muslims or the Islamic religion, but simply with what Bahais see as Iran's mistreatment towards fellow members of humanity.
    So the next time you whip out your pen and notebook in Biology class, take note of the all opportunities you have been given.

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