It's graduation season in America. Thousands of young people march to the sounds of Pomp and Circumstance and receive their diplomas. It is a time of celebrating achievement and looking forward to the future. It is a time of caps and gowns, proud parents and parties. For some, it is the beginning of their first post-grad job, for others the beginning of graduate education. What these graduates, their families and their teachers may find difficult to imagine, is that this moment could be denied because of their religious beliefs.
For young Baha'is in Iran, this is exactly what they experience year after year. It is not enough that because you are a Baha'i you face arbitrary detention or imprisonment on trumped up charges. It is not enough to be fired from your job. It is not enough that you may have your home or business fire-bombed. It is not enough that your final resting place may be desecrated and your very bones pulverized by bulldozers. No, in Iran you have to be denied an education as well.
It has long been the policy of the Islamic Republic to deny Baha'is access to higher education. In response to this state-sanctioned religious bullying, the Baha'i community of Iran took the future of its young people into its own hands. In a creative and wholly non-violent approach, the community organized the Baha'i Institute of Higher Education (BIHE). On May 21st, the BIHE became the latest target of the government's decades-long pogrom against its largest religious minority. Thirty homes were raided and 16 people arrested, one of whom has since been released.
Denying Baha'is access to higher education is a clear violation of international law and covenants to which Iran is a signatory. For example under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, "Everyone shall have the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion." Article 13 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights recognizes "The right of everyone to education," and that, "Higher education shall be made equally accessible to all, on the basis of capacity."