iran to baha’is: convert or stay out of our schools

Once again, Iran’s campaign of persecution towards its Baha’i minority finds its way into the halls of academe; one more year in a row, prospective Baha’i students have been barred from applying for higher education. No, there are no armed guards keeping them from the examination halls; just a row of boxes on paper. Here’s the story from the Baha’i World News Service:

NEW YORK, 31 July 2007 (BWNS) — Iranian Baha’is seeking to enter Iran’s technical and vocational institutes have been effectively barred from admission for the coming academic year, since the application to sit for the entrance examinations leaves them with no option but to deny their faith, which Baha’is refuse to be coerced into doing.

The Baha’i International Community learned recently that the 2007 form for the entrance examination for undergraduate courses under the technical and vocational education system indicates that only one box may be marked for religion.

The applicant is given three choices – Zoroastrian, Jewish, or Christian – and if none of the boxes is marked, the form explains, the applicant will be considered Muslim. This is unacceptable to Baha’is.

“Under this system, Baha’is cannot fill out the application without a de facto denial of their faith, which is against their religious principles,” said Bani Dugal, the Baha’i International Community’s principal representative to the United Nations.

“Accordingly, Iranian Baha’is will not be able to take this entrance examination, and so they are effectively blocked this year from obtaining technical and vocational education in Iran.

Read the whole article.

muslim network for baha’i rights featured on bbc persian

As noted on Barney Leith’s blog Barnabas Quotidianus—and passed along by countless email groups so far—the fledgling Muslim Network for Baha’i Rights has been featured on BBC Persian (Farsi; check out the English translation). This is well-deserved good news for this collection of brave souls who are selflessly striving to defend the interests of the members of a beleaguered and long-suffering religious community.

For the first time on the internet, a group of Muslim youth has established a site called “the Muslim Network for Baha’i Rights.” This site closely monitors the conditions of Baha’is in Egypt and Iran.

That a group of Muslims—made up social activists and liberal students from Arab countries—has exposed the plight of Baha’is is seen as a significant development by human rights advocates. […]

The founder of “the Muslim Network for Baha’i Rights” believes that most people in the Arab world know very little about the Baha’is: “When I talk to my friends about the Baha’i faith, they tell me that it is a satanic religion. I ask them to provide me with one of the principles of this religion, but they have no answer. Some think that the Baha’is are a sect of Shi’i Islam which is also a mistake. They don’t know anything about it, but they are nonetheless suspicious of its followers.”

muslims defend baha’i rights

In a remarkable and laudable display of interfaith solidarity, Muslim bloggers and interfaith activists have banded together to create The Muslim Network for Baha’i Rights, a website supporting the right of Baha’is across the world to freedom of religious practice, and expressing their concern at the treatment of Baha’is throughout the Middle East. Recent blog posts have examined the worrying situation of the Baha’is of Egypt and the Baha’is of Iran. You should definitely give the website a visit—and if you’re interested in the subject of interfaith blogging, you should also discover the Middle East Interfaith Blogger Network, which covers interfaith issues throughout the Middle East.

un expresses “serious concern” over human rights in iran

A UN resolution passed yesterday, originally put forward by Canada, made specific mention of the worsening plight of Iran’s Baha’is. From the Baha’i World News Service:

Uniting Nations by shrued (cc)UN expresses “serious concern” over human rights in Iran, including the situation of Baha’is

UNITED NATIONS, 22 November 2006 (BWNS) — A committee of the United Nations General Assembly yesterday passed a resolution expressing “serious concern” over the human rights situation in Iran, including the escalation of violations against Iranian Baha’is.

The resolution passed the Assembly’s Third Committee by a vote of 70 to 48 on 21 November 2006. It will now go to the General Assembly plenary for vote, in December. The Third Committee considers human rights issues for the Assembly.

Put forward by Canada and co-sponsored by 43 countries, the resolution calls on Iran to “eliminate, in law and in practice, all forms of discrimination based on religious, ethnic or linguistic grounds, and other human rights violations against persons belonging to minorities, including Arabs, Azeris, Baha’is, Baluchis, Kurds, Christians, Jews, Sufis, and Sunni Muslims.”

The resolution takes particular note of the worsening situation facing Iran’s 300,000-member Baha’i community, noting “reports of plans by the state to identify and monitor Baha’is,” “an increase in cases of arbitrary arrest and detention,” and “the denial of freedom of religion or of publicly carrying out communal affairs.”

The resolution also expresses concern over the “destruction of sites of religious importance” to Baha’is and “the suspension of social, educational and community-related activities and the denial of access to higher education, employment, pensions, adequate housing and other benefits” for Baha’is.

Read the whole story.

photo by shrued (creative commons)

iran steps up secret monitoring of baha’is

From the Bahá’í World News Service:

Iran steps up secret monitoring of Baha’is

19 August 2006 letter from Iran's Ministry of the InteriorNEW YORK, 2 November 2006 (BWNS) — In an ominous move, Iran’s Ministry of Interior has ordered officials throughout the country to step up the surveillance of Iranian Baha’is focusing in particular on their community activities.

The Ministry has requested provincial officials to complete a detailed questionnaire about the circumstances and activities of local Baha’is, including their “financial status,” “social interactions,” and “association with foreign assemblies,” among other things.

The Ministry’s order came in a letter dated 19 August 2006 and addressed to provincial deputies of the Department of Politics and Security in Offices of the Governors’ General throughout Iran.

The 19 August letter, which was recently obtained by the Baha’i International Community, asks these deputies to order “relevant offices to cautiously and sensitively monitor and supervise” all Baha’i social activities.

The letter is the latest in a series of threatening documents that outline a secret national effort to identify and monitor Baha’is in Iran.

Read the whole story.

defense of iran’s baha’is from canadian parliament

I couldn’t help but share this with you all; it’s heartening to know that members of Parliament actually stand up and take notice of the plight of the Baha’is of Iran. From the Canadian Baha’i News Service (CBNS):

parliament all lined upCanadian Bahá’ís acknowledge MPs’ efforts to defend Bahá’ís in Iran

OTTAWA, ON, 11 October 2006 (CBNS) — As Parliament resumes this fall, Bahá’ís around Canada have expressed gratitude for the concern Members of Parliament have shown upon hearing reports of activities that suggest the Iranian government is preparing to intensify its persecution of Bahá’ís in Iran.

To date, approximately 120 Members of Parliament have met with representatives of local Bahá’í communities in Canada to discuss the mounting evidence that the government in Iran is intent on suppressing the rights of its country’s Bahá’í community.

By the time the first session of Parliament ended back in June, four Members had individually spoken out in defence of the Bahá’ís in Iran, including one Member who introduced a private motion that explicitly called on the international community to convince the Iranian government to cease its discrimination against the Bahá’ís.

“The Bahá’ís have been oppressed solely because of religious intolerance. The progressive stands of the Bahá’ís on women’s issues [and] education have particularly infuriated Muslim clerics,” said the Honourable Bryon Wilfert to the House of Commons in June.

“The pattern of actions by the Iranian authorities is threatening,” he continued. “It is essential that Canada play a role in promoting human rights for Bahá’ís around the world.”

The Honourable Keith Martin and Louise Thibeault were the other two Members who referred to the human rights violations being carried out against Bahá’ís in Iran. The Honourable Alexa McDonough introduced the private member’s motion urging Canada to take a lead role in convincing the Iranian government to stop discriminating against its country’s religious minorities.

Read the entire article.