Exploratory Study Examining the Factors Associated with the Survival of Underground Education in an Oppressive Environment
Abstract: The Bahá'í Institute for Higher Education (BIHE) in Iran is a university developed by the Bahá'í community to provide access to post-secondary education for Iranian Bahá'í students not allowed entry into mainstream universities within the country. The Bahá'í Faith, a religion founded in Iran in 1844, numbers 300,000 adherents within that nation and has the second-largest number of religious followers, after Islam. Bahá'ís within the country have been continually discriminated against, with a notable increase in discrimination since the Islamic Revolution in 1979. Operating since 1987, the university has repeatedly been attacked by the government and continues to face ongoing episodes of harassment. The current study explores what factors have allowed this educational endeavour to survive, and what challenges it continues to face, by gathering qualitative data from twelve former BIHE students, now residing in North America. Extracts from writings of the Bahá'í Faith are used in conjunction with illustrative citations from interviews to investigate themes that contribute to the endurance of BIHE in Iran. The findings indicate that international support, community sacrifices, and individual resiliency represent several factors that have played a role in the continued life of the university.
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