August 29, 2007 (RFE/RL) -- An umbrella group for the Baha'i religious community says it has evidence that Iranian officials are secretly trying to expel Baha'i followers from universities, Radio Farda reported.
The Baha'i International Community (BIC) said it has obtained a copy of a confidential letter from Iran's Ministry of Science, Research, and Technology that was sent to 81 universities. The letter instructs administrators to expel Baha'i students.
The Iranian government does not officially recognize the Baha'i faith.
Diane Alai, a BIC representative at the United Nations, told Radio Farda that more than half of Iran's Baha'i university students enrolled last year have been expelled.
Alai said that, until recently, university entrance-application forms required prospective students to state their faith. She said Baha'i followers, who face discrimination in Iran, would have to lie about their faith or not seek a university education.
"When two years ago the entrance-exam officials changed the application forms, Baha'i young people were able to take part in university entrance exams," Alai said.
"Last year, 200 young people -- without being forced to say they were Muslims when they were Baha'is -- were able to enroll at university. However, 128 of them were expelled within a year," she added.
Alai said none of the expellees were involved in any kind of political activity, but were denied further education simply for being Baha'i followers.
In its press release, the BIC says the ministry's letter contradicts assertions from Iranian officials who say Baha'i students face no discrimination in Iran.
The BIC claims that Iran's 300,000-member Baha'i community in general faces "physical and economic harassment" and other rights abuses.
The Baha'i faith was founded in Iran in the 19th century. It grew out of the Shi'ite branch of the Muslim faith.
The BIC is a nongovernmental group with consultative status on a number of UN bodies.
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