Baha'is share their story at Union
Until recently, there was a university in Iran known as the Baha'i Institute of Higher Education where there were no formal classrooms and no formal buildings. The professors sent lecture notes by couriers or through fax machines.
While this might seem ideal to an average American college student, Lyn Tashakkor, who spoke on campus Wednesday, said the reason behind the form of education is far from ideal.
The university did run like this until Iran's government closed it because its Islamic government limits practice of the Baha'i Faith. This was the focus of Wednesday's Cerebral Cafe in the Illini Union.
Students of the Baha'i Institute of Higher Education practiced the Baha'i Faith, an independent world religion originating about 150 years ago in Iran, said Andrew Brook, graduate student in engineering and president of the Baha'i Association in Champaign.
"The purpose of it is to bring about unification of mankind," said Brook. "It is the spiritual foundation for building global respect and tolerance."
However, since the faith's origination and especially in the past 20 years, the people who practice Baha'i in Iran have been oppressed. They have been denied education and careers, and have even been executed for their beliefs; therefore, the university was opened to provide formal education for Baha'i students.
The government's motive behind the persecution is that it views the practice of the Baha'i Faith as a threat to Islam, according to Brook.
Because of this religious prejudice, the Baha'i have been victims of discrimination, which has sprouted international protests, said Tashakkor.
Tashakkor has been directly affected by this prejudice because her husband, Adib, was studying at the University of Illinois at the time of the Fundamentalist Islamic Revolution in Iran in 1979.
When this event occurred, Adib Tashakkor was told not to return to Iran because of the horrendous conditions the Baha'i were enduring.
A short video was shown at the Union depicting the torture and execution of Baha'i women who were simply teaching a form of Sunday school to children.
"The persecution is much more covert and subtle now," Lyn Tashakkor said.
Her husband's father and uncle were jailed in the 1980s because they were involved in the local Baha'i body, while his youngest sister was one of the students at the Baha'i Institute for Higher Education, also known as the Open University.
"The revolution had a direct effect to myself because my youngest sister has not been able to pursue the education she wanted as I and my other sister have," Adib Tashakkor said. "She has not had the same opportunities."
The Baha'is suffer from a continual invasion of privacy and attempts to destroy their religion.
Because of the persecution, Lyn Tashakkor has never met her in-laws and their communication is limited.
Despite their oppression, Baha'is have continued to promote their religion, Adib Tashakkor said. His family will remain in Iran to strengthen the Baha'is cause.
"Their (Baha'is) intention is not to leave the country, because they want to affect the society there," he said.
"This has not dimmed their spirit at all," Lyn Tashakkor said. "They encourage us to continue with the Baha'i religion."
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