• 11 October 2011
  • Posted By Helia Ighani
  • 2 Comments
  • Congress, Diplomacy, Events in Iran, Human Rights in Iran, UN

The Fight For Access to Higher Education in Iran

In the same way that international forces are imposing sanctions on Iran in an effort to alter its nuclear aspirations, Iran is punishing its own people by “sanctioning” their access to basic human rights.

Since the establishment of the Islamic Republic of Iran, the nation’s religious minorities have withstood waves of repression, not limited to imprisonment, torture, and in many cases, execution.

In particular, members of the Baha’i Faith (Iran’s largest religious minority) have been denied access to higher education, essentially blocking their ability to pursue a professional career.

Some will attempt to flee the country to attend University elsewhere. Since this is not a possibility for most individuals, the most common alternative is participation in the Baha’i Institute for Higher Education (BIHE), which has been subject to constant government raids and arrests since its beginning in 1987.

As Roxana Saberi’s emphasized in her editorial last week in the Wall Street Journal:

“U.N. officials—particularly Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon and High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay—plus member states and other individuals must place constant pressure on Tehran just as they have in cases such as mine. This will bring attention and justice to the real heroes, the everyday Iranians in prison for pursuing universal human rights and demanding respect for human dignity.”

Such attention is necessary and is definitely a step in the right direction. Bringing international condemnation of human rights violations in Iran will hopefully one day succeed in toppling persecutory methods ensued by the Islamic regime.

In recent years, we witnessed the passing of a resolution by the U.S. House of Representatives and several U.N. resolutions condemning Iran for its lackadaisical approach to human rights. And last year, the UN Human Rights Committee established a special rapporteur for human rights in Iran.  These government efforts have helped pave the way for many community-spearheaded campaigns to continue publicizing this issue, creating more public awareness.

The most recent effort to document the persecution, “Education Under Fire”, is an American-based campaign addressing Iran’s denial of the right to higher education to its citizens, featuring a documentary co-sponsored by Amnesty International.

In order to support the campaign, Archbishop Desmond Tutu and President Jose Ramos Horta called in an open letter entitled “Iran’s War Against Knowledge” for the international academic community to stand up and speak out about the denial of education to members of the Baha’i faith in Iran.

Additionally, another Baha’i-inspired campaign from Germany, “Can You Solve This?”, serves to inform the international community at large about the state of higher education in Iran and encourages individuals to write to their government leaders about this matter.  The spark created in the international community will hopefully serve to generate more public awareness, along with continued effort to bring this case before the U.N.

Posted By Helia Ighani

    2 Responses to “The Fight For Access to Higher Education in Iran”

  1. Pirouz says:

    Being of partial Native American descent, I’m aware of religious persecution here in the United States. There are central elements of Native American religious ritual that are considered criminal and punishable as felonies.

    Confronted by such, one has to make the choice of observing the law or not observing the law. Not being a religious person, it is easier for me to observe the law.

    It sounds like Bahai’s in Iran are faced with making similar considerations.

  2. p.i. says:

    Baha’is don’t have “rituals that are considered criminal and punishable as felonies”.The present Iranian laws do not prohibit “Access to higher education” for any religion. This is only the radical policy of the Islamic government that has aimed at the “destruction of Baha’i Faith” since the beginning of its Revolution.

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Sign the Petition

 

7,349 signatures

Tell Google: Stop playing Persian Gulf name games!

May 14, 2012
Larry Page
Chief Executive Officer
Google Inc.
1600 Amphitheatre Parkway
Mountain View, California 94043

Dear Mr. Page:

It has come to our attention that Google has begun omitting the title of the Persian Gulf from its Google Maps application. This is a disconcerting development given the undisputed historic and geographic precedent of the name Persian Gulf, and the more recent history of opening up the name to political, ethnic, and territorial disputes. However unintentionally, in adopting this practice, Google is participating in a dangerous effort to foment tensions and ethnic divisions in the Middle East by politicizing the region’s geographic nomenclature. Members of the Iranian-American community are overwhelmingly opposed to such efforts, particularly at a time when regional tensions already have been pushed to the brink and threaten to spill over into conflict. As the largest grassroots organization in the Iranian-American community, the National Iranian American Council (NIAC) calls on Google to not allow its products to become propaganda tools and to immediately reinstate the historically accurate, apolitical title of “Persian Gulf” in all of its informational products, including Google Maps.

Historically, the name “Persian Gulf” is undisputed. The Greek geographer and astronomer Ptolemy referencing in his writings the “Aquarius Persico.” The Romans referred to the "Mare Persicum." The Arabs historically call the body of water, "Bahr al-Farsia." The legal precedent of this nomenclature is also indisputable, with both the United Nations and the United States Board of Geographic Names confirming the sole legitimacy of the term “Persian Gulf.” Agreement on this matter has also been codified by the signatures of all six bordering Arab countries on United Nations directives declaring this body of water to be the Persian Gulf.

But in the past century, and particularly at times of escalating tensions, there have been efforts to exploit the name of the Persian Gulf as a political tool to foment ethnic division. From colonial interests to Arab interests to Iranian interests, the opening of debate regarding the name of the Persian Gulf has been a recent phenomenon that has been exploited for political gain by all sides. Google should not enable these politicized efforts.

In the 1930s, British adviser to Bahrain Sir Charles Belgrave proposed to rename the Persian Gulf, “Arabian Gulf,” a proposal that was rejected by the British Colonial and Foreign offices. Two decades later, the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company resurrected the term during its dispute with Mohammad Mossadegh, the Iranian Prime Minister whose battle with British oil interests would end in a U.S.-sponsored coup d'état that continues to haunt U.S.-Iran relations. In the 1960s, the title “Arabian Gulf” became central to propaganda efforts during the Pan-Arabism era aimed at exploiting ethnic divisions in the region to unite Arabs against non-Arabs, namely Iranians and Israelis. The term was later employed by Saddam Hussein to justify his aims at territorial expansion. Osama Bin Laden even adopted the phrase in an attempt to rally Arab populations by emphasizing ethnic rivalries in the Middle East.

We have serious concerns that Google is now playing into these efforts of geographic politicization. Unfortunately, this is not the first time Google has stirred controversy on this topic. In 2008, Google Earth began including the term “Arabian Gulf” in addition to Persian Gulf as the name for the body of water. NIAC and others called on you then to stop using this ethnically divisive propaganda term, but to no avail. Instead of following the example of organizations like the National Geographic Society, which in 2004 used term “Arabian Gulf” in its maps but recognized the error and corrected it, Google has apparently decided to allow its informational products to become politicized.

Google should rectify this situation and immediately include the proper name for the Persian Gulf in Google Maps and all of its informational products. The exclusion of the title of the Persian Gulf diminishes your applications as informational tools, and raises questions about the integrity and accuracy of information provided by Google.

We strongly urge you to stay true to Google’s mission – “to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful” – without distorting or politicizing that information. We look forward to an explanation from you regarding the recent removal of the Persian Gulf name from Google Maps and call on you to immediately correct this mistake.

Sincerely,

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