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CAUT Bulletin Archives

February 1999

CAUT Condemns Iran's Raid on Bahá'í University

CAUT President Bill Graham describes government action as gross violation of UN Covenant on Economic, Social & Cultural Rights.

CAUT President Bill Graham condemned the attempt by the Government of Iran to shut down the Bahá'í Institute of Higher Education -- the only postsecondary institution in Iran open to members of the Bahá'í faith.

Founded in 1987, the Institute, also known as the Bahá'í Open University, was the subject of sweeping raids by Iranian security forces late last year. Officials of the Bahá'í faith in Canada have reported that more than 30 faculty members were arrested during the raids by government officials operating under the auspices of the Ministry of Information, an intelligence agency of the Iranian Government.

Security forces also seized records and equipment from classrooms, laboratories and libraries scattered throughout Iran in private homes and buildings. Prior to these raids, the Open University had an enrolment of nearly 1,000 students and scores of volunteer academics and instructors.

In a strongly worded letter to the Iranian Government, Graham pointed out that these actions were a gross violation of the United Nations Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights to which Iran is a signatory. The Covenant commits all signatories to assuring that "higher education shall be made equally accessible to all, on the basis of capacity, by every appropriate means."

Graham called on the government to end its discrimination against members of the Bahá'í faith and to assure Bahá'ís access to the Open University and other postsecondary institutions in Iran.

Since the Islamic revolution in 1979, followers of the Bahá'í faith have suffered persecution in Iran. "The Bahá'í Question" policy, a secret government document drawn up in 1991 by the Supreme Revolutionary Cultural Council and made public two years later by a United Nations human rights commission, outlined plans to marginalize the Bahá'í community in Iran. The document states, "The Government's dealings with them, the Bahá'ís, must be in such a way that their progress and development are blocked." It adds, "They must be expelled from universities, either in the admission process or during the course of their studies, once it becomes known that they are Bahá'ís."

The Open University was the Bahá'í community's attempt at university access through an independent, full-fledged, yet completely decentralized university system. While most of the faculty members have now been released, the future of the Open University remains uncertain. Bahá'ís continue to be denied access to any other postsecondary institutions.