Iran: Allow Baha'i Students Access to Higher Education
Government Discriminates against
800 Students on Basis of Faith
(New York, September 20, 2007) – Iran
should immediately end practices aimed at barring Baha’i students from attending
universities, Human Rights Watch said today. The government should quickly
resolve the situation of some 800 Baha’i students whom it prevents from
obtaining their educational records and completing the university admission
International Baha’i organizations
and Baha’i students in Iran reported to Human Rights Watch that authorities at
the National Education Measurement and Evaluation Organization have denied 800
Baha’i students access to their National Entrance Examination scores. The test
is a national matriculation exam required for admission to Iran’s universities.
“This week, as universities begin the new academic year,
hundreds of Iranian students will be absent from campuses because of blatant
religious discrimination,” said Joe Stork, deputy Middle East director at Human
Students who have taken the National Entrance
Examination can obtain their results and check the fields they are eligible to
study on the website of the National Education Measurement and Evaluation
Organization. In the past, the authorities published results in newspapers and
made them accessible to the general public. The government shifted to an
electronic format two years ago, making the test results available only to
individual students checking their scores.
The 2007 National
Entrance Examinations were administered on June 28-30, and the National
Education Measurement and Evaluation Organization made the first results
available on their site (www.sanjesh.org) on July 31.
This year, when some 800 students of the Baha’i faith logged
on to the website, they received an error message informing them that their
files were “incomplete.” Three of these students told Human Rights Watch that
authorities at the National Education Measurement and Evaluation Organization
did not respond to numerous phone calls and letters requesting clarification
about why their test results were inaccessible.
students who inquired in person to the National Education Measurement and
Evaluation Organization office in Tehran told Human Rights Watch that officials
said explicitly that they had been targeted because they were Baha’is. One
student said that an official told him they had “received orders from above not
to score the tests of Baha’i students.” Another student said that the official
he spoke to suggested that he would be able to receive his test scores only if
his family renounced their faith.
Iran is party to the
International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights which obligates
it to make higher education equally accessible to all without discrimination.
Iran is also a party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political
Rights, Article 18 of which guarantees freedom of thought, conscience, and
With an estimated 300,000 members, the Baha’i
community is Iran’s largest religious minority. The Iranian government considers
Baha’is to be apostates from Islam and does not recognize their faith as
legitimate, unlike Iran’s Jewish, Christian, and Zoroastrian communities.
Baha’is in Iran cannot practice their faith in a public manner.
Until 2004, the Iranian government required a declaration of
religious affiliation on the application for the National University Entrance
exam. The application included slots only for Muslim, Jewish, Christian, and
Zoroastrian students, effectively disqualifying Baha’i students. After the
requirement was dropped in 2004, Baha’i students were able to participate in the
exams, but their applications were rejected at later points in the admissions
process until 2006, when over 200 Baha’i students were allowed to enter national
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