In the same way that international forces are imposing sanctions on Iran in an effort to alter its nuclear aspirations, Iran is punishing its own people by “sanctioning” their access to basic human rights.
Since the establishment of the Islamic Republic of Iran, the nation’s religious minorities have withstood waves of repression, not limited to imprisonment, torture, and in many cases, execution.
In particular, members of the Baha’i Faith (Iran’s largest religious minority) have been denied access to higher education, essentially blocking their ability to pursue a professional career.
Some will attempt to flee the country to attend University elsewhere. Since this is not a possibility for most individuals, the most common alternative is participation in the Baha’i Institute for Higher Education (BIHE), which has been subject to constant government raids and arrests since its beginning in 1987.
As Roxana Saberi’s emphasized in her editorial last week in the Wall Street Journal:
“U.N. officials—particularly Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon and High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay—plus member states and other individuals must place constant pressure on Tehran just as they have in cases such as mine. This will bring attention and justice to the real heroes, the everyday Iranians in prison for pursuing universal human rights and demanding respect for human dignity.”
Such attention is necessary and is definitely a step in the right direction. Bringing international condemnation of human rights violations in Iran will hopefully one day succeed in toppling persecutory methods ensued by the Islamic regime.
In recent years, we witnessed the passing of a resolution by the U.S. House of Representatives and several U.N. resolutions condemning Iran for its lackadaisical approach to human rights. And last year, the UN Human Rights Committee established a special rapporteur for human rights in Iran. These government efforts have helped pave the way for many community-spearheaded campaigns to continue publicizing this issue, creating more public awareness.
The most recent effort to document the persecution, “Education Under Fire”, is an American-based campaign addressing Iran’s denial of the right to higher education to its citizens, featuring a documentary co-sponsored by Amnesty International.
In order to support the campaign, Archbishop Desmond Tutu and President Jose Ramos Horta called in an open letter entitled “Iran’s War Against Knowledge” for the international academic community to stand up and speak out about the denial of education to members of the Baha’i faith in Iran.
Additionally, another Baha’i-inspired campaign from Germany, “Can You Solve This?”, serves to inform the international community at large about the state of higher education in Iran and encourages individuals to write to their government leaders about this matter. The spark created in the international community will hopefully serve to generate more public awareness, along with continued effort to bring this case before the U.N.