Elliott Abrams

Pressure Points

Abrams gives his take on U.S. foreign policy, with special focus on the Middle East and democracy and human rights issues.

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Iran Punishes the Baha’i for the Crime of Education

by Elliott Abrams
October 18, 2011

The viciousness of the Iranian regime toward Iranians of the Baha’i faith was displayed again today in the sentencing of seven Baha’i educators to years in prison.

They are professors and officials involved in Baha’i Institute for Higher Education (BIHE). BIHE is an online university created for Baha’i citizens who have been denied the opportunity to study at Iran’s universities. In today’s Iran, creating those educational opportunities is a crime—indeed, the crime of “membership in illegal groups with the intention to commit crimes against Iran’s national security.”

Each one of the seven was sentenced to four or five years in prison.

As I wrote here recently, “The main brunt of regime attacks has fallen on the Baha’i faith: just under one hundred Baha’i are in prison now in Iran for no other crime than their religious beliefs. The Baha’i community suffers from persecution reminiscent of the way Jews were treated in Nazi Germany: deprived of jobs, barred from schools, arrested for teaching their children in informal schools, jailed without cause, cemeteries desecrated, religious institutions shut down.”

The crimes of the Iranian regime are many, but the way Baha’i citizens are treated should be cause for special alarm.

Here’s a suggested response: every university everywhere that engages in any form of official exchange with an Iranian university should end it as a form of protest. Perhaps this would create within Iran a stronger lobby of university students, professors, and administrators pressuring the regime to back off on these despicable policies. At the very least it would bring more attention to the way the regime is treating these peaceful citizens.

Post a Comment 8 Comments

  • Posted by canadiansyrian

    the promise of Obama`s engagement policy with Iran !
    three years of success .
    Obama`s engagement with Assad even better .
    Irani media are celebrating the release of Hamas`s prisoners and arresting Bahais ?
    did you see how well fed and healthy the palestinians prisoners , and how skinny and malnourished Shleet was ?

  • Posted by smile

    write about iranian plot to kill saudy embassidor which was created by a novelist a year ago.or you do not beleive in that?

  • Posted by Dawn

    Thank you Dr. Abrams. The uniqueness of the Baha’i situation in Iran, and the particularly disturbing challenges they face, is difficult to convey. You have said much in few words.

  • Posted by Bill

    The Baha’i case in Iran is particularly egregious, as the Baha’is, more than any other group, have been singled out as “other.” The Baha’i International community just issued a report on the Iranian’s media’s incitement of hatred against the Baha’is – http://bic.org/resources/documents/inciting-hatred-book. My understanding is that the Baha’is also feel just as strongly about the Iranian regime’s discrimination against Sunni Muslims, Christians, Jews, Zoroastrians, women, and human rights activists.

    Your suggestion that institutions of higher education in the West end exchanges with Iranian universities is laudable as it will cause Iranian professors and students to petition for change to the odious policy of denying higher education to qualified youth solely on the basis of religion.

    If education is a crime, I am guilty as charged.

  • Posted by Gene Surratt

    Would not the removal of educational opportunity available to Iran then cause suffering among those that have no stake in our cause?

    Why would we wish to cause harm to one for the punishment of another?

    How then can we show the world the truth in the Glory of God if we act in the same way as they do?

  • Posted by Sidney Cox


    I don’t understand what you are trying to say. No one is suggesting anything of the kind. We are only demanding the regime of Iran to cease it’s human rights violations. What government actions take place are no different than any other nation in similar circumstances. Do we just sit and watch?

  • Posted by Jamshid Payamn

    I wish all the educational institutions of the world respond and object to this savegry.The Eslamic government of Iran surpassing the attrosity of Ntzi and Hitler

  • Posted by Zia Hashemi, M.D.

    Please sign the joint letter written by Archbishop, Desmond Tutu, Peace Prize Recipient of 1984, & President Jose’ Ramos-Hortal President of East Timor, & Nobel Peace Prize Recipient of 1996 on line.

    The right to higher education is as natural as the air we breath, as essential as the water to quench one’s thirst, and as God given as the food one cannot live without.
    The other religious minorities of Jews, Zoroastrians, and Christians were allowed to attend universities after the Islamic revolution of Iran in 1979, but Baha’is were not. So, Baha’is have founded the Baha’i Institute of Higher Education (BIHE) since 1987. The BIHE is in the most informal settings of private homes, relies on no state funds, and university professors instruct students in college level writing, dentistry, and alike voluntarily. No credit or diploma is granted. How this most descent enterprise which put no burden on state or society be illegal?

    What does justify sentencing seven of these professors to years in the notorious Evin Prison, chastising the students, and threatening to confiscated the homes used as classrooms?

    I hope that the influence of public awareness to not only release these professors, but also, encourage other scholars to join the BIHE. I believe that these students should be granted the right to attend universities and after taking the related exams honored credits for their works at BIHE.
    May eventually, the largest Iranian minority, the Baha’is, work shoulder to shoulder with other Iranian, and people from around the world to “carry forward an ever advancing civilization” as it dates back 2500 years to the Cyrus the Great in Iran!

    Schplars for Peace in the Middle East (SPME), is an independent , not-for-profit, grass root organizationof nearly 55,000 university and college professors, researchers, administrators, teachers, librarians, and students on more than 3,500 campuses worlswide, have issued a similar letter.

    I am hoping that you consider signing the letter and encourage your friends to do the same, as you have seen in the 2011 News around the world, there is strength in numbers!

    To see the letter and to sign please type “educationunderfire in any search engine and go to Laureates’ Letter.”

    Thank you very much for time. Have a great day!

    Respectfully yours,

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