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This open letter, written on June 12, 2014 to the academics and intellectuals of Iran by an imprisoned group of professors, managers and associates of the Baha’i Institute of Higher Education (BIHE), asks the thinking people of Iran to raise their voices in protest over the continuing injustices that prevent Baha’is from educating their children and youth.
Academics, Professors, University Students and Education Enthusiasts,
Undoubtedly, you intellectuals, scholars and lovers of education are well aware of the station of science and knowledge in discovering the relationships between things, consolidating the foundation of society, bringing about cultural progress and the betterment of humanity. We are also sure you agree that in the world of humanity there is no higher attribute than science, no service more honorable than training and educating people or taking a step toward spreading human knowledge, to the extent that throughout history the increase in education and learning has been praised by various nations.
Currently, in this enlightened era of science and knowledge when the efforts of the giants in this field are illuminating the earth and conquering the universe, a group of people are imprisoned for educating the youth of this country. We, the signatories of this letter, have been in prison for some time because we were teaching university courses and collaborating with the Baha’i Institute of Higher Education; more than at any other time, we are shocked at the injustice and discrimination which has been imposed on us.
Three years ago – on May 22nd, 2011 – in a systematic effort, more than 35 locations in several cities were attacked by government agents, and a number of BIHE managers, professors and associates were arrested and charged with teaching and collaborating with this Institute, and were sentenced to long prison terms. Currently, ten of these educators are serving their sentences at Rajai-Shahr Prison and three are imprisoned in the women’s ward of Evin Prison; others are waiting either for their sentences to be carried out or for their court proceedings to commence.
This institution of higher education was formed 27 years ago in 1987, as a result of the exclusion of young Baha’is from entering all universities so that the fire of knowledge would not be extinguished in the hearts of these deprived youth.
This has been done even though the Universal Declaration of Human Rights recognizes the right to education as one of the basic rights of all human beings, and the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Iran explicitly prohibits deprivation of rights due to religion, and acknowledges that education is the right of every Iranian. Now, it is surprising that despite all the stipulations in national and international laws, the basic right of Baha’is to education is still violated; any attempt to educate them is confronted by severe obstacles.
The fundamental questions are: “Will this discrimination and exclusion of a group of Iranian citizens from accessing higher education help our beloved country to develop? Will it increase growth in human knowledge? Will this discrimination solve the economic and cultural problems in our society? Have they been sources of pride and glory for Iran? Have they made Iran distinguished in the international arena?”
Surely, you agree that science and knowledge – like sunshine and rain – are universal privileges and divine gifts that should be equally available to both the lowly and the noble, and we wonder why the outpouring rain of mercy and the sun of glory should be granted to a privileged group and denied to another group.
Accordingly, if you are asked to teach and educate those in need you surely will not deny them, and will not hold your knowledge just for yourself and a specific group.
Do you believe it is appropriate that when those who are faced with a complete absence of all facilities and a lack of equal opportunity try hard to take steps in the arena of science and knowledge to train this country’s youth as an efficient workforce for the purpose of progress and honor of the country, that they be deprived, prohibited and condemned to this extent due to education and training?
As servants of this scientific and academic movement, we believe that you – the science and knowledge enthusiasts – also value human nobility and scientific honor, and do not consider discrimination and injustice permissible. We hope that you – our beloved fellow citizens – will walk with us in harmony to plant the pure seed of knowledge in the hearts of our children and to keep the flame of longing for education lit in their souls, to show by our actions that Iran is the cradle of civilization and science, as it was in ancient history.
In the arena of science and education, undoubtedly we all have responsibilities, you who live in the free world and those of us who are in prison. To honor knowledge, we request that by protesting this discrimination and injustice, you – the intellectuals – create the necessary conditions for attaining education and equal opportunity for every single member of society regardless of ethnicity, race, religion and belief.
– Mahmoud Badavam, Kamran Rahimian, Keyvan Rahimian, Riazollah Sobhani, Farhad Sedghi, Kamran Mortezai, Foad Moghadam, Shahin Negari