Roya Pourjamshidi, a self-identified member of the Baha’i faith and a current engineering student at the University of Saskatchewan, applied to continue her education at Iranian universities. Her applications were denied.
For several decades, prospective Baha’i students have been excluded from Iranian universities on the basis of their religion, rather than their academic merits.
The systematic denial of education to minorities is just one of many human rights violations taking place in Iran that the United Nations has voiced concern over. Other concerns include women’s rights, freedom of expression in media, equality of religion, political freedom and children’s rights.
With a focus on education, Single Arrow Productions and co-sponsor Amnesty International produced Education Under Fire, a 30-minute documentary that profiles the growth, struggle and spirit of the Baha’i Institute of Higher Education.
Founded in 1987, the BIHE is a semi-underground university in Iran that offers education in the sciences, social sciences and arts to those who are excluded from other Iranian universities.
The school has a volunteer faculty of nearly 500, including accredited professors who assist in both teaching and research.
Since the BIHE’s inception, the Iranian government has made several attempts to close it.
On May 22, 2011, in the government’s most recent raid, officials entered homes of many of the BIHE educators by force. Books, computers and other materials were seized. Educators were arrested and placed in Iran’s notorious Evin Prison, where American journalist Roxana Saberi was incarcerated in 2009.
Education Under Fire, which will show on the U of S campus April 12, was filmed in nine Iranian cities and documents the experiences of students and teachers whose lives have been affected by the BIHE. Along with footage and photos spanning over two decades of classes, the documentary features video from within Evin Prison and personal stories that capture the essence of the university.
The goal of the film is to inspire the educational institutions of Iran to open up to Baha’i students and also aims to have more international institutions recognize degrees earned at BIHE, which are currently accepted by 60 universities internationally.