Subject: Education for Baha'is Attacked
Alert Date: 28 October 1998
Case Number: IR9814.Bah
Human Rights Issues
Iranian authorities arrested at least 36 faculty members of the Baha'i Institute of Higher Education (BIHE) between 30 September and 3 October 1998; seven remain in custody. The arrests, which took place in fourteen cities, are part of a widespread assault by the Iranian government against the Baha'i community, which has included barring Baha'is from public universities, confiscating classroom equipment, plundering more than 500 Baha'i homes, arbitrarily arresting and imprisoning members of the Baha'i community, and imposing death sentences and executing Baha'i prisoners.
The faculty members who were arrested were asked to sign a document declaring that the BIHE had ceased to exist as of 29 September and that they would no longer cooperate with it. The detainees reportedly refused to sign the declaration. Many of them had been barred from teaching in universities and schools.
The Baha'i community is the largest religious minority in Iran with approximately 300,000 members. Baha'is have been barred from Iranian universities since the 1980s. In response to the ban, in 1987 the Baha'i community in Iran founded its own independent, full-fledged, yet completely decentralized university system, the BIHE. The Institute offers degrees in ten subject areas, including applied chemistry, biology, dental science, pharmacological science, civil engineering, computer science, psychology, law, literature, and accounting. Until September, more than 900 students were enrolled and the faculty consisted of more than 150 first-rate academics and instructors. The Institute was composed of various classrooms, laboratories, and libraries scattered throughout Iran in private homes and buildings. In addition, Baha'i academics in North America, Europe, and Australia cooperated with the Institute by sending the latest textbooks and research papers, and making occasional visits to Iran as guest lecturers.
Similar raids against the BIHE were conducted in 1996, but authorities did not shut down the Institute. In 1991 the Iranian Supreme Revolutionary Cultural Council instituted a campaign intended to eradicate the Baha'i community. The policy was expressed in a secret document that was personally endorsed by the Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei. It was published in 1993 by the United Nations Special Representative on Iran.
The arbitrary arrest of Baha'i educators and the exclusion of Baha'is from access to higher education in Iran constitute serious violations of international human rights standards, including those enumerated in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (adopted without opposition by the United Nations General Assembly on 10 December 1948) and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, to which Iran is a State Party and which it is therefore legally obligated to recognize. They include:
Under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights:
Under the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ratified by Iran on 24 June 1975).
(Source of information for this case is the National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha'is of the United States.)