Saturday, February 04, 2017

Spate of Student Expulsions For Religious Beliefs Claimed.

Officials from at least one university in Iran tried to eliminate traces of ongoing religious discrimination, as at least 15 students belonging to the Baha’i religious minority were expelled from universities during December 2016 and January 2017, the United States-based International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran or ICHRI has reported.

Spate of Student Expulsions For Religious Beliefs Claimed.

In what appears to be the latest crackdown following the targeting and closure of Baha’i businesses in Iran, six Baha’i students were expelled from Islamic Azad University and nine from other universities across the country during the last two months.

The institutions included Isfahan University of Technology, Shiraz University and Eram College in Shiraz. Two students were expelled from Birjand University of Technology, ICHRI said, citing Baha’i news sources. 

Some 219 Baha’i students were denied a university education after passing the national entrance exam for the 2016-17 academic year, including Nima Ighanian, whose exam result ranked 155th among one million applicants, ICHRI reported.

Official fraud – Claim

In the case of one of six Baha’i students expelled from the Islamic Azad University of Roudehen, east of Tehran, the rights group said university officials had allegedly forged documents to make it appear as if the students had opted to drop out.

“Initially, the university administration told me that my documents were incomplete,” said the student, who asked not to be identified for security reasons. An official in the chancellor’s office “asked if I was a Muslim. I told him I had passed the Islamic theology exam to enter the university, but that I’m a Baha’i".

“A few days later when I checked the university’s website, I noticed I had been cut from the classes I had signed up for. I went to the enrolment office and they told me I had dropped out from the university.

“But what had really happened was they didn’t want to officially expel us, so they instead wrote down that we had chosen to drop out. That’s the most painful, shocking and unlawful thing the university officials could do.”

University meeting

In a meeting at the university, the Baha’i students asked why they were being expelled. “We never got a straight answer. He kept saying, ‘You know the reason and you shouldn’t have enrolled in the first place’,” the student said. 

“He said he would prevent us from enrolling into other universities, too, and we shouldn’t waste our time because the authorities wouldn’t help us,” added the student. “He said he had done us a favour by expelling us before we paid our tuition [fees].

“The university enrolment form doesn’t ask you about your religion, instead you’re given the option to answer questions about your faith – Islam, Christianity, Judaism or Zoroastrianism are the only options.

“Baha’is usually choose to answer questions about Islam because they have all studied it in high school. That’s what I and my friends did. I don’t know how exactly they found out we’re Baha’is,” continued the student.

“This has been going on for 37 years [since the Iranian Revolution]. Every year, university security officials identify new Baha’i students and find excuses to throw them out. 

"The students complain to Parliament, the Supreme Leader’s Office, the President’s Office, the Education Ministry, the Student Evaluation Organisation and other offices to seek justice, but they don’t get anywhere.”

Mass educational persecution

During recent months more than 2,000 Baha’is signed a petition to President Hassan Rouhani to improve the educational situation of Baha’is, according to Baha’i News Press, which reports that since the Iranian Revolution in 1979, more than 100,000 Baha’is have been barred from higher education.

In September 2016, 19-year-old Faraz Karin-Kani Sisan was expelled from Ghiyaseddin Jamshid Kashani Institute for Higher Education in Abyek, Alborz Province, northwest of Tehran, after completing his second term in development studies, ICHRI reported. 

“When I went to the administration office, I was told they don’t have a problem with Baha’is but the Science Ministry had sent a directive to all universities compelling them to expel all Baha’i students. I had no choice but to settle my account and leave,” he told the ICHRI last year. 

“I worked hard to get into the university. I studied two terms and spent a lot of money. I was a good student and observed the moral codes and I didn’t discuss my religion, as they had asked me,” he said. 

Iran denies prosecuting Baha’is for their religious beliefs.

But the country’s laws state that students who take the national enrolment exam must be either Muslim or followers of other constitutionally-sanctioned religions. And regulations on student qualifications dating back to 1991 state that if a student is discovered to be a Baha’i after enrolling in a university, he or she will be expelled.




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