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DE PA R T ME NT O F E X TE R N A L A FF A I R S

NATIONAL SPIRITUAL A SSEMBLY OF THE BAHÁ’ÍS OF INDIA

Contact: F Vahedi Phone: 98-11040575 Email: fvahedi@ibnc.in

Press Release

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
29 September 2011

Shohreh's story: How Iran violated a top student's rights
DELHI — Like many young people the world over, Shohreh Rowhani grew up with high hopes of a good university education. But now she has run up against a system which – while promising opportunity on the surface – is cruelly designed to block her and other young Iranians from ever getting a degree. Ms. Rowhani is a Baha'i, and her experience is made all the more unjust by the fact that she is among Iran's most gifted students; she ranked 151 in the country after passing the national university exam in her chosen field of languages. In other words, her result put her among the top 1% of candidates who took the exam. Buoyed by her impressive grades, Ms. Rowhani – who comes from the northern Iranian city of Nowshahr – began the online process of selecting her courses. But when the results of those applications were listed, she discovered that her submission had been rejected as an "incomplete file." It is a phrase well known to young Baha'is. For several years now, the term has appeared frequently as one among several ruses crafted to prevent them from actually matriculating even if they pass the national university exams. Undeterred, Ms. Rowhani courageously went to the regional office that oversees the examination process and asked officials to explain what was wrong. "They told me that this has happened because you are a Baha'i," she reported in a letter recently sent to several human rights organizations. "Since you are a Baha'i you do not have the right to enter university," she was told. She went on to meet with the head of the admissions department who explained that there was nothing that could be done now that she is known to be a Baha’i. Even if she was to gain admission she would surely be expelled after a few terms. The experience of Shohreh Rowhani is also a familiar story for thousands of Baha'is in Iran who are barred from higher education on religious grounds. Even for the fortunate ones who might be offered a place, expulsion often follows during the course of their studies. In recent months, two students at the Isfahan University of Technology were prevented from registering for the next term, also for having "incomplete documents;" a Baha'i studying English literature was thrown out of the University of Kerman; a biomedical engineering student at the University of Sahand was dismissed; and a physics student at the University of Mazandaran was expelled after completing eight semesters on the honor roll and gaining admission to a Master's program. Three decades of exclusion All kinds of methods have been used by Iran since the 1979 Islamic Revolution to prevent Baha'is from attending university – firstly, by expelling them all, and then, imposing an outright ban on their accessing higher education. In response to international condemnation, the Iranian government changed the rules in 2003, declaring that Baha'is could now take the examination. But when nearly a thousand Baha'is moved ahead in good faith, they encountered new barriers. In an open letter sent last month to Iran's minister for higher education, the Baha'i International Community called for an end to the "unjust and oppressive practices" that bar Baha'is and other young Iranians from university.