A Faith Denied: The Persecution of the Baha'is of Iran
C. Legal and social status:
1. Permit them a modest livelihood as is available to the general population.
2. To the extent that it does not encourage them to be Bahá'ís, it is permissible to provide them the means for ordinary living in accordance with the general rights given to every Iranian citizen, such as ration booklets, passports, burial certificates, work permits, etc.
3. Deny them employment if they identify themselves as Bahá'ís.
4. Deny them any position of influence, such as in the educational sector, etc.335
Since Bahá'í youths were denied access to a university education, the Bahá'í community created the Bahá'í Institute for Higher Education (BIHE). The school was started as a small, underground operation in 1987 in order to meet the educational needs of the Bahá’í faithful. By 1998, it had a student enrollment of 900 students, a staff of 150 academics and offered complete degree courses in 10 subjects. Classes took place in private homes and were extremely decentralized to avoid provoking the government.336 Nevertheless, in September of 1998, the Iranian authorities arrested 36 members of the faculty and raided over 500 homes across Iran. Books, computers, records, lab materials, and other equipment were all confiscated.337 The New York Times reported:
The materials confiscated were neither political nor religious and the people arrested were not fighters or organizers. They were lecturers in subjects like accounting and dentistry; the materials seized were textbooks and laboratory equipment.338
After the 1998 raids the BIHE began to rebuild, although it continued to face further obstacles placed in its way by the IRI. From 2001 through 2002, classrooms continued to be shut down, faculty members were harassed and Revolutionary Guards in Mashad and Shiraz confiscated the qualifying exams of students during their examinations. Instruction continues through correspondence courses and where possible classes continue to meet discreetly in small groups.339 Although Western schools have begun to recognize BIHE graduate degrees, the IRI government refuses to recognize BIHE graduates as members of their profession.340
In 2001, the Islamic Republic Documentation Center, which operates under the auspices of the Supreme Council of the Cultural Revolution, also published a book entitled Bahá’ísm in Iran which purports to demonstrate that Bahá’í faith was introduced as a socio-political movement by the colonial powers in an effort to undermine the power and religious authority of the Shi'a clergy.341
Since the election of President Ahmadinejad, a new campaign against the Bahá’í community in Iran has began to take shape in the Iranian media and there some alarming echoes of the 1955 and 1980s campaigns. Four days after the election, Kayhan, the government-sponsored newspaper edited by Supreme Leader's representative, Hossein Shariatmadari, began running a series of negative articles about the Bahá’í faith.342 The scope of the articles ranged from historical canards to supposed espionage activities, and the alleged immoral conduct of the community. The following titles from articles published by Kayhan in 2005 capture the flavor of their content:
IRAN’S SECRET BLUEPRINT, supra note 186, at 63.
BAHÁ’Í INTERNATIONAL COMMUNITY, CLOSED DOORS: IRAN’S CAMPAIGN TO DENY HIGHER EDUCATION TO BAHÁ’ÍS, available at: http://denial.Bahá’í.org/ (accessed October 23, 2006) at 19, 23.
Ethan Bronner, Iran Closes ‘University’ Run Covertly by the Bahá’ís, NEW YORK TIMES, October 29, 1998, at A7.
BAHÁ’Í INTERNATIONAL COMMUNITY, CLOSED DOORS: IRAN’S CAMPAIGN TO DENY HIGHER EDUCATION TO BAHÁ’ÍS, available at: http://denial.Bahá’í.org/004.php (accessed October 23, 2006).
See BIHE History and Overview at http://www.bihe.org/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=35&Itemid=198 (accessed December 7, 2006).
SEYYED SA'ID ZAHID ZAHIDANI & MOHAMMAD ALI SALAMI, BAHÁ’ÍYAT DAR IRAN [BAHÁ’ÍSM IN IRAN] (Islamic Republic Documentation Center, 2001).
Bahá’í International Community, Summary and Analysis of Recent Media Attacks, available at http://www.Bahá’í.org/iranthreat/mediaattacks (accessed October 18, 2006).