University of Tehran Student Soha Mortezaei Sentenced to Six Years’ Imprisonment

Posted on: September 20th, 2018

Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA) – Graduate student in humanities and Secretary of Tehran University Central Student Union Soha Mortezaei– who was among those arrested amid the 2018 “January protests”– has been sentenced to six years’ imprisonment and a two-year ban on membership in political parties, groups, and gatherings by Branch 26 of the Revolutionary Court of Tehran, presided by Judge Ahmadzadeh.

Mortezaei’s name figured in HRANA’s January 6, 2018 report on citizens apprehended during the aforementioned protests, which gained countrywide momentum and were met with considerable violence form authorities. She was detained for her inquiries into the status and wellbeing of detained fellow students who had participated along with her in the demonstrations.

Mortezaei had a previous run-in with authorities, in a wave of arrests that took place in January of 2015. She was arrested along with Amirkabir and Allameh Tabatabai University student activists Zahra Khandan, Fershteh Tusi, and Parastou Biranvand. One month later, she was released.

The January Protests led to large number of arrests and interrogations across the country. While the protests began on December 29, 2017 in the city of Mashhad, the unrest quickly spread to other cities. Thousands were detained and at least 25 died in skirmishes between protesters and security forces.

An Imprisoned Student Digs in his Heels as More than 50 Baha’i College Applicants are Denied September Enrollment

Posted on: September 19th, 2018

Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA) – Four more Baha’i youth anticipating results from their national university entrance exam have received notifications of “deficiency” on their application dossiers, deflating their hopes for enrollment this year. But for one of these four–Rajai Shahr prisoner and human rights activist Vahed Kholousi–this rejection has come to symbolize a tradition of resistance.

Kholousi doggedly reapplies to the entrance exam every year from prison, in continued protest of having been denied higher educational opportunity for 15 consecutive test rounds.

It was Kholousi’s peaceful reclamation of Baha’i educational rights that originally brought him into authorities’ crosshairs, resulting in a five-year prison sentence on charges of “gathering and collusion with intent to commit crimes against national security,” “membership and activity in the Baha’i community and its widespread propaganda,” and “membership and activity in the Right to Education Committee.”

The above ruling from his June 2011 trial, held in Branch 28 of the Revolutionary Court, was presided by Judge Moghiseh and later upheld in an appeals court. Pursuant to the sentence, he was summoned to Branch 3 of Evin Prison court that August, arrested there the same day, detained for 21 days in Ward 2A of Evin Prison (jurisdiction of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC)), and finally exiled to Rajai Shahr Prison, where he has since remained.

Kholousi is contesting a larger anti-Baha’i discrimination policy administered by the Supreme Council of the Cultural Revolution, by which the e-dossiers of himself, Sahar Mohebpour from Shiraz (ranked # 7000, studying English Literature), Seyed Koosha Hashemi from Shiraz (ranked #6295), and Saba Fazli from Karaj have recently been flagged “deficiency on file,” bringing to 51 the number of Iranian Baha’is being denied college-enrollment eligibility despite successfully passing the national admissions test, according to HRANA cumulative reports.

HRANA previously revealed the identities of 47 Baha’i applicants who were met by the flag “deficiency on file” when checking their test results online:

1. Farhoud Bashi, from Tehran, 2. Sahba Imani, 3.Arman Golzar, 4. Nariman Movafaghi Eiveli from Sari, 5. Faran Talaei Khalajabadi, 6. Sina Talei Joshaghani, 7. Mahsa Sotoudeh, 8. Nima Amini, 9. Hanan Hashemi Dahaj, 10. Hasti Maleki, 11. Aria Ehsani, 12. Tina Hamidi Fard from Tehran (ranked #15000), 13. Rozhan Khooniki (ranked #9477), 14. Foroozan Noordel from Tabriz, 15.Parsa Sheikh Zavareh, 16.Hoda Hedayati, 17.Arian Baghaei Amrei from Sari, 18.Vafa Nobakht from Sari, 19.Adib Rahmani from Sari (ranked #960, studying Mathematics), 20.Parviz Rahmani, 21.Kiana Rastak, 22.Negar Iqani from Shiraz, 23.Hooman Zarei Kadavi, 24.Arsham Hashemi, 25.Nabil Bashi Ardestani, 26. Tara Bahamin, 27.Bita Charkh Zarrin, 28.Nona Ghadiri, 29.Sayeh Aghaei from Tabriz, 30.Pegah Siroosian, 31.Sadaf Misaghi Seysan of Tehran, 32. Parham Mokhtari from Saravan ranked # 397, studying mathematics; 33. Basir Zeinali Baghini from Bandar Abbas ranked # 1506; 34.Yahya Mousavi Tangrizi from Karaj, 35.Anita Rastegar, 36.Shamim Idelkhani, of Ardebil, ranked #139; 37.Farnia Iliyazadeh of Tehran, studying Mathematics; 38.Parmida Hosseinpooli Mamaqani, ranked #4500, studying Mathematics; 39.Sarvin Azarshab of Tehran, studying business,ranked #19000; 40.Parand Misaghi; 41.Shahrzad Tirgar; 42.Melina Ghavaminik, from Tehran, studying mathematics, ranked #10545, 43.Tarannum Mu’tamedi Broujerdi from Shahin Shahr of Isfahan, 44.Faran Abbaspouli Mamaghani from Tehran, 45.Sahand Ghaemifrom Shahin Shahr of Isfahan, 46.Vahid Sadeghi Seysan, 47.Shaghayegh Ghassemi

Blackballed Baha’is: 40 and Counting

Posted on: September 18th, 2018

Human Rights Activists News Agency (HHRANA) – HRANA has so far confirmed the names of at least 40 Baha’i Iranian citizens who have been denied the opportunity to enroll in university despite successfully placing on the competitive national admissions test.

HRANA has confirmed that the candidate files of Nima Amini, Hanan Hashemi Dehaj, Hasti Maleki, Aria Ehsani, Tina Hamidi Fard from Tehran (ranked #15000 on the national exam) and Rozhan Khooniki (ranked #9477) have all been flagged “deficiency on file” on the National Organization for Educational Testing website. HRANA previously reported the names of 34 other students singled out by the same system.

The “deficiency on file” flag is one known method of the wider anti-Baha’i discrimination politics administered by Iran’s Supreme Council of the Cultural Revolution. An informed source confirmed to HRANA that the flag is a go-to excuse to prevent Baha’i students from entering institutes of higher education.

Baha’i College Student Stopped Short of Degree

Posted on: September 18th, 2018

Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRAN)- Baha’i student Shaghayegh Zabihi Amrie was finishing the last semester of her associate’s degree in architectural drafting when the *National Organization for Educational Testing (NOET) stopped her short.

An informed source told HRANA that Amrie’s problems began with a summons to the Azad University Security Office, where she was drilled with questions about her faith. After placing a call to the director of Rasam Non-Profit University of Karaj on the western outskirts of Tehran, where Amrie was a student, authorities had little information with which to push forward and cleared her to continue her studies.

“When she applied to obtain her certificate of completion,” the source related, “she received a letter from NOET informing her that getting her certificate, and advancing further in her bachelor’s studies, would be prohibited.”

While many Baha’i students find themselves held back from ever pursuing post-secondary studies, some are admitted into institutions of higher education only to be blackballed later, per previous HRANA reports.

The highly-anticipated announcement of results from the National University Entrance Exam, known as “Konkur,” has been marred for many Baha’is who, with passing results and on the brink of starting college, are rendered ineligible by the NOET error message “deficiency on file,” a well-known pretext for quashing young Baha’i ambitions the moment they take shape.

The process has been utilized for years, and with a look at this year’s numbers, looks nowhere near abating. This year alone, HRANA has reported on at least 40 prospective college students who have been barred from pursuing their studies because of their Baha’i faith.

Contrary to the provisions of the **law, Iran’s Supreme Council of the ***Cultural Revolution has passed a law barring members of the Baha’i religious minority from both university enrollment and employment in public institutions. Since the 1979 Revolution, UN Special Rapporteurs on the Situation of Human Rights in Iran have protested the anti-Baha’i policies and practices of Iranian authorities, particularly the academic blackballing of Baha’is, deeming these practices a violation of Iran’s international commitments.

Baha’i citizens of Iran are systematically deprived of religious freedoms, while according to Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and Article 18 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, all people are entitled to freedom of religion, belief, and changes thereof, as well as the right to express and practice those beliefs as individuals or collectives, in public or in private.

Though unofficial sources estimate the Baha’i population of Iran at more than 300,000, Iran’s Constitution officially recognizes only Islam, Christianity, Judaism, and Zoroastrianism, and does not acknowledge the Baha’i faith as an official religion. As a result, the rights of Baha’is in Iran are systematically violated.

* NOET is established with the mandate to develop and implement the rules of admission to higher education with the collaboration of the universities http://www.sanjesh.org/en/aboutus.aspx
** The Islamic Republic’s constitution does not recognize Baha’i followers as a religious minority, but articles of the Constitution guarantees the right to association for everyone
*** The Council was founded in 1984 on the order of Ayatollah Khomeini, the founder of the Islamic Republic, to ensure the “Islamization” of universities, survey academia to ensure their allegiance to the regime and their adherence to “Islamic” values.

More than 30 Baha’i College Applicants Denied Enrollment for their Religious Affiliation

Posted on: September 16th, 2018

Update: Authorities Continue to Hold Back Aspiring Baha’i Students

Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA) – The number of Iranian Baha’is being denied college-enrollment eligibility despite successfully passing the national admissions test has reached 34, according to HRANA cumulative reports.

As part of a larger anti-Baha’i discrimination policy administered by the Supreme Council of the Cultural Revolution, the e-dossiers of Foroozan Noordel from Tabriz, Parsa Sheikh Zavareh, Hoda Hedayati, Arian Baghaei Amrei from Sari, Vafa Nobakht from Sari, Adib Rahmani from Sari (ranked #960, studying Mathematics), Parviz Rahmani, Kiana Rastak, Negar Iqani from Shiraz, Hooman Zarei Kadavi and Arsham Hashemi have all been flagged “deficiency on file.”

An informed source told HRANA that “deficiency on file” is the routine excuse for preventing Baha’i students from entering institutes of higher education.

Update: Authorities Continue to Hold Back Aspiring Baha’i Students

Posted on: September 15th, 2018

Baha’i enrollment numbers in Iranian universities are still under threat

Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA) Additional Baha’i college applicants have had their university entrance exam results invalidated on the National Organization for Educational Testing website, effectively barring them from continuing their studies.

As part of a larger anti-Baha’i discrimination policy administered by the Supreme Council of the Cultural Revolution, the e-dossiers of Parham Mokhtari from Saravan (ranked #397), Basir Zeinali Baghini of Bandar Abbas (ranked #1506), Yahya Mousavi Tangrizi from Karaj, and Anita Rastegar have all been flagged “deficiency on file.”

The flagging of results on this nation-wide competitive test, known as “Konkur,” is a well-known technique for repressing Baha’i college hopefuls. HRANA previously reported on a number of Baha’i student test results that were blocked from further processing using the same method. As of the date of this report, sixteen students have been prevented from pursuing higher education because of their Baha’i faith.

Iranian Baha’i citizens are systematically deprived of religious freedoms, while according to Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and Article 18 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, everyone is entitled to freedom of religion and belief, and the right to adopt and manifest the religion of their choice, be it individually, in groups, in public, or in private.

Based on unofficial sources, more than 300,000 Baha’is live in Iran. However, Iran’s Constitution only recognizes Islam, Christianity, Judaism, and Zoroastrianism, and does not acknowledge the Baha’i faith as an official religion. Consequently, the rights of Baha’is are systematically violated in Iran.

Update: Systematic Religious Discrimination Curbs Twenty-three Baha’i College Hopefuls

Seven more would-be college students have been plucked from the pool of candidates by a government-sanctioned process designed to thwart the educational pathways of Baha’i citizens.

Nabil Bashi Ardestani, Tara Bahamin, Bita Charkh Zarrin, Nona Ghadiri, Sayeh Aghaei from Tabriz, Pegah Siroosian, and Sadaf Misaghi Seysan of Tehran have joined the growing number of Baha’i youth whose results on the competitive National University Exam, known as “Konkur,” have been flagged “deficiency on file” on the National Organization for Educational Testing website, rendering them ineligible to apply to college.

Over the past few days, HRANA reported on 16 prospective Baha’i college applicants who are now at the same impasse: Parham Mokhtari from Saravan ranked # 397, studying mathematics; Basir Zeinali Baghini from Bandar Abbas ranked # 1506; Yahya Mousavi Tangrizi from Karaj, Anita Rastegar, Tarannum Mu’tamedi Broujerdi from Shahin Shahr of Isfahan, Faran Abbaspouli Mamaghani from Tehran, Sahand Ghaemi from Shahin Shahr of Isfahan, Vahid Sadeghi Seysan, Shaghayegh Ghassemi, Shamim Idelkhani, of Ardebil, ranked #139; Farnia Iliyazadeh of Tehran, studying Mathematics; Parmida Hosseinpooli Mamaqani, ranked #4500, studying Mathematics; Sarvin Azarshab of Tehran, studying business, ranked #19000; Parand Misaghi; Shahrzad Tirgar; and Melina Ghavaminik, from Tehran, studying mathematics, ranked #10545.

The Supreme Council of the Cultural Revolution flags the e-dossiers of Baha’i students as part of an organized effort — in the words of one HRANA source — “to keep them from moving forward.”

The most recent seven targets of this campaign bring the current total to 23 Baha’i students being deprived of the opportunity to pursue higher education because of their faith.

Number of Barred Baha’i Students Increases on 2018 National University Entrance Exam

Posted on: September 13th, 2018

Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA) – A large number of Baha’i students who participated in the 2018 National University Entrance Exam, known as “Konkur,” have had their applications flagged “deficiency on file” on the National Organization for Educational Testing website, a known harbinger of educational aspirations dead in the water.

As an informed source told HRANA, “The ‘deficiency in file’ flag is used on Baha’i citizens to keep them from moving forward in their studies, a practice that’s been prevalent since 2006.”

The barred Baha’i students are Shamim Idelkhani, of Ardebil, ranked #139; Farnia Iliyazadeh of Tehran, studying Mathematics; Parmida Husaynpuli Mamaqani, ranked #4500, studying Mathematics; Sarvin Azarshab of Tehran, studying business, ranked #19000; Parand Mithaqi; Shahrzad Tirgar; and Melina Qavaminik, from Tehran, studying mathematics, ranked #10545.

Yesterday, HRANA reported on a number of Baha’is at the same impasse: Tarannum Mu’tamedi Broujerdi from Shahin Shahr of Isfahan, Faran Abbaspouli Mamaghani from Tehran, Sahand Ghaemi from Shahin Shahr of Isfahan, Vahid Sadeghi Sisan, and Shaghayegh Ghassemi.

In direct violation of the law, Baha’is are prevented from pursuing degrees or employment in government offices, per under-the-table directives from the Supreme Council of the Cultural Revolution. Every year, a new cohort of Baha’is is barred in this way from the university enrollment process.

Since the 1979 revolution, the office of the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Iran has repeatedly protested the Iranian government’s animosity towards its Baha’i population, particular in preventing these citizens from furthering their studies. According to the Rapporteur, such directives demonstrate a blatant disregard of multiple international treaties.

Iranian Baha’i citizens are systematically deprived of religious freedoms, while according to Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and Article 18 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, everyone is entitled to freedom of religion and belief, and the right to adopt and manifest the religion of their choice, be it individually, in groups, in public, or in private.

Based on unofficial sources, more than 300,000 Baha’is live in Iran. However, Iran’s Constitution only recognizes Islam, Christianity, Judaism, and Zoroastrianism, and does not acknowledge the Baha’i faith as an official religion. Consequently, the rights of Baha’is are systematically violated in Iran.

Students Protest Elimination of Fixed Exchange Rate

Posted on: September 3rd, 2018

Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA)- A group of students assembled on September 1st, 2018, in front of Iran’s Central Bank on Mirdamad Street in Tehran to protest a decision that would deny access to foreign currencies at a special exchange rate.

A memorandum issued by Iran’s Central Bank that aims to eliminate a lower exchange rate fixed for students and certain importers by September 21 has caused discontent among many Iranians. If the decision in the memorandum holds, many students, including those studying abroad, will have to pay more than double the rate they have been paying for foreign currencies.

The Iranian authorities have historically offered limited quantities of foreign currencies, most notably the American dollar, at a rate less than half of the current market exchange rate.

The Central Bank recently announced that the lower exchange rate will remain in effect for eligible consumers until the end of the year. After that–and unless the decision is overturned–they will be at the mercy of the open market’s steeper prices.

The Iranian currency, known as the rial or toman, has lost more than half of its value since April 2018 alone.

Baha’i Student Expelled from University for Her Religious Beliefs

Posted on: August 19th, 2018

Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA)- Romina Asgari, who was enrolled in a Master’s program in Tehran’s Islamic Azad University (IAU) (1), has been expelled for her Baha’i faith. She was enrolled for four semesters before being barred from continuing her education.

In a letter by the IAU, the reason for her expulsion was cited as “non-conforming social behaviour and attempts to disturb the country’s security, peace and order”. However, Ms Asgari was reportedly absent from the University for the past six months and had been on academic leave for one semester.

Contrary to the letter of the law (2) , the Supreme Cultural Revolution Council (3) has adopted a policy that bars members of the Baha’i religious minority group from university education and employment in public services. Every year, many reports are published about Baha’i students who have been barred from university. The ban includes students who have been accepted to university but have not yet started the school year.

UN special rapporteurs on the situation of human rights in Iran have continuously protested against the Iranian authorities’ anti-Baha’i policies and practices – in particular barring Baha’i students from university education – and deemed these practices as instances of the Iranian authorities violating their international commitments.

Based on unofficial reports, there are 300,000 members of the Baha’i faith in Iran, but lack of recognition of their religion by Iran’s constitution has been used as justification for the systematic denial of their rights. Systematic infringements on the rights of Baha’is contravenes Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (4) and Article 18 of International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (5) , both of which guarantee the right to freedom of thought, conscience, and religion.

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(1) Islamic Azad University is a network of universities established after the 1979 revolution with branches all across Iran. Unlike Iranian public universities, they charge, at times hefty, tuition fees, and they impose much stricter disciplinary and Islamic dress code. However, they provide access to university education in remote areas. It is governed by a board of trustees who have been taken over recently by hardliners close to Ali Khamenei, Iran’s Supreme Leader.

(2) Iran’s constitution does not recognize Baha’i followers as religious minorities, but articles of the Constitution guarantee the right to association for everyone.

(3) The Council was founded in 1984 on the order of Ayatollah Khomeini, the founder of Islamic Republic, to ensure Islamization of universities, survey academia to ensure their allegiance to the regime and their adherence to Islamic values.

(4) http://www.un.org/en/universal-declaration-human-rights/
(5) https://www.ohchr.org/…/professionalint…/pages/ccpr.aspx

Three Student Activists Sentenced to Imprisonment

Posted on: May 11th, 2018

HRANA News Agency – Mohsen Haghshenas, student of Stage Designing at Tehran University, was convicted by Tehran Revolutionary Court on charges of gathering and collusion with the intention of committing a crime against the security of the country and disturbing public order by taking part in illegal gatherings, to two years imprisonment. Leila Hossein Zadeh and Sina Rabiei, two other student activists, were sentenced to eight years imprisonment in total and a ban on leaving the country.

According to the report of Human Rights Activists News Agency in Iran (HRANA), Mohsen Haghshenas was sentenced to two years imprisonment by the Revolutionary Court. (more…)