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EDUCATION UNDER FIRE, April 26th, 2012

“Education Under Fire” Film & Panel Discussion, April 26, 2012, Russell Union Theater, Georgia Southern University. For more information, photos, and three videos of the event, please see below.

“Education Under Fire” came to the Russell Union Theater of Georgia Southern University on April 26 at 7:00 pm. Close to 200 students and faculty attended the “Education Under Fire” film and panel discussion, which stimulated a conversation about the universal human right to education and its denial to minorities in Iran, especially Bahá'í students. The panel, moderated by Dr. Debra Sabia, featured two Iranian Bahá’ís, Evaz Fanaian and Nasrin Rouhani, sharing personal testimonies, and also a Christian Minister, Dr. Francys Johnson and a GSU Professor of Education, Dr. Dan Rea, providing brief critiques of the Iranian government’s discriminatory policies. At the event, 173 people signed the petition for the protection of the educational rights of Bahá'ís and other minorities in Iran. Special thanks are extended to Dr. Joe Goldstein & Dr. Dan Rea, Faculty Event-Organizers, Efad Huq & Xavier Best, President & Vice-President of Amnesty International GSU, and Chris Pugh, Director of the Multicultural Student Center for their invaluable support of the event. Also, thanks are extended to Efad Huq and Jarrett Sims, photographers, Alonza Turner, videographer, and Amber Gordon and Dhara Shah, George-Anne reporters. Amnesty International GSU, the Bahá’í Faith of Statesboro, and the Multicultural Student Center co-sponsored the event. Nobel Laureates, Archbishop Desmond Tutu & President José Ramos-Horta, have endorsed the "Education Under Fire" program already presented at 120 universities across the United States including Harvard, Stanford, Emory, Georgia Tech, Georgia State University, Morehouse College, and now Georgia Southern University. For more information, see http://educationunderfire.com/ and see their letter of endorsement at http://educationunderfire.com/nobel-laureates-letter/








Letter from Elise Auerbach, PhD, Iran country specialist, Amnesty International USA:

Dear Amnesty International members and activists:

I write to introduce you to the Education Under Fire initiative which addresses the persecution of Iran’s Bahá’í community, and specifically, their systematic exclusion from higher education. The deprivation of the right to education is a violation of internationally agreed upon human rights treaties, such as the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights to which Iran is a state party.

I strongly encourage you to arrange a public screening (in your home, community or campus) of the campaign’s film “Education Under Fire” which is endorsed by Amnesty International USA. This wonderful documentary tells the story of the Bahá’í Institute for Higher Education (BIHE), which was established to provide an opportunity for Bahá’ís to obtain their education; sadly, this peaceful institution has also been declared illegal, and many of those involved in providing instruction have been arrested, detained, and charged with criminal offenses; seven of them were sentenced to long prison terms in the fall of 2011. The film also tells the story of courage and commitment in the face of human rights violations, as Bahá’ís who love learning and education make heroic efforts to provide this gift to young members of their faith.

I also encourage you to take action to urge the Iranian government to uphold its obligations under international law and to end the persecution of the Bahá’ís in Iran, to release all prisoners of conscience, and to cease depriving Iranians of the right to education on ideological and religious grounds. You can do so by going to Education Under Fire’s web site (http://educationunderfire.com) and participate in the Drive to 25 campaign, which seeks to deliver 25,000 petitions to Iranian officials.


Elise Auerbach, Ph.D.
Iran country specialist, Amnesty International USA


Answers to frequently asked questions:

What is the basic belief of the Bahá’í Faith?

Bahá’ís believe that there is one God, that all humanity is one family, and that there is a fundamental unity underlying all religions. Bahá'ís work toward the establishment of world peace through a process of community building based upon such principles as the oneness of the human race, the equality of women and men, the need for universal education, the harmony of science and religion, and others that are fundamental to the establishment of a peaceful and prosperous society.

What lesson can we take away from the film?

While the film focuses on a terrible injustice, it is not about victimhood. Rather, it’s about resilience demonstrated in the face of oppression – it is a story of strength. Moreover, it helps us appreciate our own freedom and to think about the importance of not taking our own right to education for granted.

Why should the Iranian government be held accountable to protect the right of all of its citizens with respect to higher education?

Article 26 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, to which Iran is a signatory, states: “Everyone has the right to education…”, and further, “Education shall be directed to the full development of the human personality and to the strengthening of respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms. It shall promote understanding, tolerance and friendship among all nations, racial or religious groups, and shall further the activities of the United Nations for the maintenance of peace….”

The Iranian government’s denial of the right to education violates both the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and its own constitution.

Why would the Bahá'í community of Iran risk imprisonment and worse by creating its own informal university, knowing that the Iranian government will punish such an effort again and again?

Education is central to the Bahá'í teachings, which emphasize the importance of education for the nurturing and development of all peoples. According to Bahá’í teachings, educating one’s children is an inescapable duty.

The deprivation of access to institutions of higher learning and the attack on a peaceful institution developed to fill the gap is an attempt to withhold necessary intellectual food in an effort to starve the minds of an entire community.

Does the Iranian government deny others the right to higher education?

The Bahá’ís are the only group to face pervasive class denial of this right. However, the denial of the right to higher education is a tool wielded by the Iranian government on an individual basis against those whom the government perceives to have stepped out of line. Many student activists, journalists, and others–whose ideology contradicts or threatens the authority of the ruling clerics–are subject to facing such discrimination.

The International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran recently published a study called “Punishing Stars,” examining the system by which students’ applications to university are flagged for rejection for such perceived offenses.

What are the charges that have been levied against those involved in teaching and studying at BIHE?

According to reports, in late July, seven BIHE faculty and staff members were charged with “conspiracy against national security” and “conspiracy against the Islamic Republic of Iran” by “establishing the illegal Bahá’í Institute for Higher Education.” Those accused were ultimately each sentenced to four to five years imprisonment, and their crime was announced as: “Membership of the deviant sect of Bahá’ísm, with the goal of taking action against the security of the country, in order to further the aims of the deviant sect and those of organizations around the country.”

The Bahá’í Faith is recognized as an independent world religion by virtually every free nation on the planet. Its teachings are all‐inclusive and demand the respect and obedience of its adherents to national and international law.

Why does the government of Iran persecute the Bahá’ís so vehemently?

Throughout the past century, the Bahá'ís of Iran have been persecuted. Since the triumph of the Islamic Revolution in 1979, this persecution has been systematized. More than 200 Bahá'ís have been executed or killed, hundreds more have been imprisoned, and tens of thousands have been deprived of jobs, pensions, businesses, and educational opportunities. All national and local Bahá'í administrative institutions have been banned by the Government, and Bahá'í holy places, cemeteries and community properties have been confiscated, vandalized, or destroyed.

The 300,000‐member Bahá'í community is the largest religious minority in that country, and Bahá'ís have been oppressed solely because of religious intolerance. Islamic leaders in Iran and elsewhere have long viewed the Bahá'í Faith as a threat to Islam and have branded the Bahá'ís as heretics. The progressive stands of the Faith on women's rights, independent investigation of truth, and education have particularly rankled many Muslim clerics.

Is the Bahá'í community a threat to the government or society?

Bahá'ís believe in the importance of obedience to established governments and do not engage in partisan or seditious activity. Although the Iranian government has accused the Bahá'ís of such behavior, it has never presented evidence in any court or to the public. The trials of the Bahá'ís currently imprisoned lacked even the basics of due process. It is clear to the international community and to all prominent human rights organizations that the persecution of the Bahá'ís is based on religious intolerance.

The reality is that the Bahá'ís are conscientious and productive citizens to the extent that their circumstances allow. Yet understandably, they refuse to yield on matters of belief.

What is the process by which BIHE students’ credits have been accepted at institutions of higher education?

BIHE accreditation thus far has been granted on an individual basis. Individual students from BIHE apply to institutions, send their transcripts and documents, and then follow up with phone calls. Gradually many are accepted. One of the Bahá’í administrative offices in the US sends a letter to verify that the transcripts are valid, along with other supporting documents. Through the precedents set by individual efforts, over 60 universities worldwide have accepted BIHE graduates into their graduate programs. These include some of the best universities in North America.

Note: Harvard University’s Graduate School of Education very recently made a formal announcement that it will accept credits from BIHE, after an Education Under Fire screening–conversation held at the university in November.

[See list of accrediting schools: http://www.bihe.org/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=16&Itemid=44]

We have the freedom and privilege to decide what course of education and career we want to pursue. How can we use our freedom and particular resources to address this violation of a universal human right? What can we do to get involved and help those whose rights have been violated?


• Read and share the Nobel laureates’ letter.

• Join the Drive to 25 and sign the petition condemning the denial of the right to education, and encourage others to do so. EUF has a goal of obtaining 25,000 signatories by the end of May 2012, one year from the recent attack on the BIHE and detainment of the seven sentenced prisoners.

• Brainstorm with other collaborators and participants about how you can materialize the action points called for by the Nobel laureates in your communities and schools.

• Write articles about the right to education in the press, blogs, and school newspapers.

• Post EUF items and news to Facebook, Twitter, and other social media.


EUF Website Press and Articles Sections:

Bahá'í World News Service Iran Update

BIHE Quickfacts

Iran’s Constitution

Punishing Stars


The following text is taken from:

(Originally published Oct. 10 in The Daily Telegraph letters to the editor: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/middleeast/iran/8816662/Religious-academics-denounce-persecution-against-Irans-Bahai-minority.html)

The Daily Telegraph

Prominent U.S. professors sign global letter, denounce restrictions on freedom of education in Iran

Text of the open letter and the names of 43 signatories:

Dear sir,

As philosophers, theologians, and scholars of religion, living throughout the world, we are raising our voices in protest against the recent attack by Iranian authorities on the Bahá’í Institute for Higher Education (BIHE).

As people of faith, we affirm that human beings are fundamentally spiritual in nature, created with the innate capacity to know God and investigate truth for themselves. To acquire knowledge and learning is the sacred and legal right of all; indeed, the state is obliged to provide it. In Iran, the government has done the opposite. Among the numerous violations of the human rights of Bahá’ís, their access to higher education is systematically blocked for no other reason than their beliefs. In order to cater to the needs of their youth, Iranian Bahá’ís developed the BIHE – their own, informal, community education initiative. On 22 May, 39 homes associated with the BIHE were raided. The Institute’s activities have since been declared “illegal.” Nine educators remain incarcerated.

Attacks such as these, against the rights of citizens to organize and be educated in freedom, can no longer be tolerated. We call upon the Iranian government not only to cease its persecution of Bahá’ís, but to provide, and promote, education for all.

Charles Taylor
Emeritus Professor of Philosophy
McGill University

Graham Ward
Regius Professor of Divinity
Oxford University

Moshe Idel
Professor Emeritus of Jewish Thought
Hebrew University of Jerusalem

Hilary Putnam Cogan
University Professor Emeritus of Philosophy
Harvard University

Ebrahim Moosa
Professor of Religion and Islamic Studies
Duke University, North Carolina

Abdulkader Tayob
Professor of Islamic Studies
University of CapeTown

Cornel West
Class of 1943
University Professor of African American Studies
Princeton University

John Milbank
Professor in Religion, Politics and Ethics
University of Nottingham

William Desmond
Full Professor of Philosophy
Katholieke Universiteit, Leuven

Leonardo Boff
Professor Emeritus of Ethics, Philosophy of Religion, and Ecology
Rio de Janeiro State University

Rabbi David Novak
Professor of Philosophy
University of Toronto

Xinjian Shang
Professor of Philosophy
Peking University

Stanley Hauerwas Gilbert
T. Rowe Professor of Theological Ethics
Duke University, North Carolina

Tahir Mahmood
Chairman, Amity University Institute of Advanced Legal Studies
New Delhi

Kevin Hart
Edwin B Kyle Professor of Christian Studies
University of Virginia

Murray Rae
Professor of Theology
University of Otago

Pilgrim W.K. Lo
Professor of Systematic Theology
Lutheran Theological Seminary, Hong Kong

Joseph Cohen
University Lecturer in Philosophy
University College, Dublin

Asghar Ali Engineer
Head of Centre for Study of Society and Secularism

Philip Goodchild
Professor of Religion and Philosophy
University of Nottingham

Adam Miller
Professor of Philosophy
Collin College, Texas

Remi Brague
Chair of the Study of Religion
Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich

Laurie Zoloth
Professor of Medical Humanities and Bioethics
Northwestern University, Ilinois

Raphael Zagury-Orly
Head of the Master of Fine Arts Programme
Bezalel School of Design and Fine Arts, Jerusalem

A. Rashied Omar
Research Scholar of Islamic Studies and Peacebuilding
University of Notre Dame, Indiana

Paul Morris
Professor of Religious Studies
Victoria University of Wellington

Felix O Murchadha
Senior Lecturer in Philosophy
National University of Ireland Galway

Joshua Cho
President and Professor of Christian Thought
Hong Kong Baptist Theological Seminary

James E. Faulconer
Richard L. Evans Chair of Religious Understanding
Brigham Young University, Utah

Na’eem Jeenah
Associate Lecturer of Political Studies
University of the Witwatersrand

Douglas Pratt
Professor of Religious Studies
Waikato University

Rod Benson
Ethicist and Public Theologian
Tinsley Institute, Morling College, New South Wales

Kathleen Flake
Associate Professor of American Religious History
Vanderbilt Divinity School, Tennessee

Ashok Vohra
Professor of Philosophy
Delhi University

Hassan Mwakimako
Senior Lecturer in Islamic Studies
Pwani University College, Kilifi

Rabbi Aryeh Cohen
Associate Professor of Rabbinic Literature
American Jewish University, California

Carver Yu
President and Professor of Christian Thought
China Graduate School of Theology, Hong Kong

Yunus Dumbe
Lecturer in Islamic Studies
Islamic University College, Accra

Jeffrey Bloechel
Associate Professor of Philosophy
Boston College

Nathan Oman
Assistant Professor of Law
William and Mary School of Law, Virginia

Rabbi Akiba Lerner
Assistant Professor of Jewish Studies
Santa Clara University, California

William Hackett
Research Fellow and Lecturer in Philosophy
Australian Catholic University


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