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
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
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
"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."
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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