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Baha’i Campus Organization pushes for UI support

BY NICK HASSETT | NOVEMBER 15, 2012 6:30 AM

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It’s a campaign that has gained support at universities across the nation, seeking to end injustices for Iranians in higher education. And now it’s urging the University of Iowa to offer its support.

The UI Baha’i Campus Association hosted its first discussion meeting Wednesday, showing a video on the Education Under Fire campaign — which aims to end discrimination against followers of the Baha’i religion in Iranian higher education — and held a discussion afterward, brainstorming efforts to gain support and various other topics.

Nabil Deandrade, a member of the UI Baha’i Campus Association, said the mission of the organization is to bring change through worldwide pressure on the Iranian government.

“Today, more than ever, the human race is one family, and we should care and support our brothers and sisters across the world,” he said. “We don’t understand the power of our voices in making change.”

Maryam Deravi, the president of the UI Persian Student Organization, came to the U.S. after she was denied admission to universities in Iran based on her high-school education in Oman.

“I saw a better opportunity to study here [in America],” she said. “I wanted to see how life and culture were different than what I had heard about.”

However, Deravi thinks the problem with education in Iran is wider than just discrimination.

“The education problem is not as big of a problem as the economy in Iran,” she said. “[Young people’s] futures if they leave seem more fulfilling than if they stay.”

The Baha’i Faith was founded in Persia in the 19th century, and it has more than 5 million followers worldwide. Of these followers, 300,000 live in Iran today, where they face persecution from the Iranian government in areas such as higher education, where members of the Baha’i faith are not allowed into Iran’s universities, and are denied positions in public office. After the Islamic Revolution in Iran, many of the Baha’i faith were executed.

In response to the rejection of Baha’is at Iranian universities, the Baha’i Institute of Higher Education was created. The decentralized network of Baha’i teachers and students met covertly, in houses and apartments instead of classrooms. However, the Iranian government has cracked down on the institute, seizing equipment and arresting prominent members as recently as May 2011.

The Education Under Fire campaign’s main goal is to create a petition to send to the international academic community and the Iranian Government.

The online petition had over 4,000 signatures as of Wednesday evening, and the organization plans to send it at the end of December.

John Carpenter, a member of the UI Baha’i Campus Association, said the organization is focused on raising awareness about the issue and encourages the UI to accept credits from Baha’i Institute students who come to the U.S.

“We want to bring this issue to the university’s attention,” he said.


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