Saturday, June 2, 2012

Education Under Fire







Since the 1979 revolution, when the Islamic Republic of Iran came to power, members of the Baha'i Faith, that country's largest non-Muslim religious minority, have faced relentless state-mandated persecution. In its continuous attempt to destroy the Baha'i community the government has, for nearly thirty years, denied Baha'is the right to attend any of Iran's universities. These unimaginable efforts were not met by violence or even opposition. Rather, in 1987, Iran's Baha'is began conducting classes of their own. Joined by Iranians of many backgrounds, Baha'i educators slowly developed a simple and well-respected higher educational system with classes held in living rooms, kitchens and basements across the country. Thus, the Baha'i Institute for Higher Education (BIHE) was born.
On May 22, 2011 thirty-nine homes of BIHE instructors, administrators and students across Iran were raided by the government, the second such attack in the last two decades. Laboratories and classes were forcibly closed. Books, computers and materials were confiscated. Over a dozen collaborators were arrested. By September the number of detainees had climbed to eighty-four. In October seven educators associated with the BIHE were sentenced to four and five year prison terms. Since that time others have been given similarly harsh sentences.
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