More than 100 people in Iran are currently being imprisoned, tortured and having their bodies desecrated. Their crime: teaching.
In Iran, it is illegal for someone of the Baha’i faith to teach or study.
Baha’i is a relatively new religion that originated in Iran during the 1860s. The Baha’i prophet is Baha’u’llah, but they also accept all previous prophets such as Moses, Jesus, Krishna, Buddha and Muhammad as manifestations of God. Baha’is are nonviolent people who have a strong emphasis on equality between genders and universal education.
Recently, I attended a film showing on campus. It was the documentary “To Light a Candle” by journalist Maziar Bahari. The movie describes what Baha’i teachers in Iran have endured in the name of education. One man had his feet whipped so badly they remained blood-stained and he could not walk for days. That man was later executed.
The film also showcases testimony from multiple teachers of the Baha’i Institute for Higher Education (BIHE), an underground university in Iran. Underground education — that’s a term most Americans have probably never had to use in their lives.
In the film, I saw what a BIHE class was like. A little more 10 students would sit on couches in their teacher’s living rooms. They weren’t terrible conditions by any means, but it’s most definitely not a classroom experience.
Not only can these students not go to schools, but they also can’t even go to the library. It all doesn’t make sense to me. Progress comes from knowledge. Iran must not want progress, but why? What is the benefit of not sending students to school? I don’t see the gain, but I can clearly see the loss.
Baha’is do not believe in evil. They believe only in the lack of light. Lack of light is caused by lack of knowledge. And that’s exactly what the Iranian government is: the lack of light.
BIHE and the film are both affiliated to the “Education is not a crime” campaign, a movement dedicated to ending rejection of education in Iran and around the world. A photo is featured on educationisnotacrime.me of BIHE graduates. Their faces have been blurred out to keep them safe from any type of persecution by Islamic fundamentalist and the Iranian government.
An Iranian UN ambassador in the documentary says there is no persecution of Baha’is, and they are free to seek education. He’s obviously lying, because what would be the point of the imprisonments, the campaign and the movie itself, if that was the case?
Baha’is believe that a strong balance between science and education allows humanity to progress without becoming too materialistic or too fanatical.
So why are these peaceful people, who are just looking to learn, receiving such torment? I come from a Catholic family, and I’m currently attending college. Do I deserve to be thrown into a small cell and have my feet whipped until I can’t even walk?
The Iranian government and Islamic fundamentalists take a Soviet Russia approach to Baha’is — life is good because the government says it’s good, and if you do not believe life is good, then you are a threat.
Growing up, I’m sure I was like most kids. We’d call in sick and not show up to school. We’d leave early on “senior skip day.” One of the most important and successful movies in American cinema is about taking the day off from school. We have the ungrateful pleasure of choosing not to learn.
We don’t know how lucky we have it.
Even in college, I’ve skipped a few classes here and there. So I stay in on a Friday, nursing a hangover and watching cartoons while Baha’is in Iran dodge fanatics and have classes in their teacher’s den just to attain some knowledge.
I love education and college, but sometimes I get lazy. Now that I’ve seen “To Light a Candle” and the plight of the Baha’is, I’ve grown to appreciate school even more and how easy it is for me to learn.
Sure, college tuition, the cost of textbooks and the United States education system are not the best in the world, but at least we don’t live in fear of execution for learning and teaching.
Email Griffin Kelly at email@example.com