International Day of Education; an overview of the right to education in Iran in 2020

Posted on: January 25th, 2021

Hrana- This report prepared by Human Rights Activists (HRA) honors the International Day of Education by bringing attention to the state of education in Iran, specially during the Covid-19 pandemic and consequent challenges of online education. Furthermore, this report includes a statistical overview of the violations of the fundamental rights of students and teachers, as well as violations of the right to education that took place between 24th January 2020 to 20th January 2021 in Iran.

“Everyone has the right to education. Education shall be free, at least in the elementary and fundamental stages. Elementary education shall be compulsory. Technical and professional education shall be made generally available and higher education shall be equally accessible to all on the basis of merit.” (UDHR Article 26)

The right to education is a fundamental right that should be available to everyone free of charge, at least for children in the elementary and fundamental stages. However, many students in Iran have been deprived of their right to education due to the lack of facilities and educational spaces, and dilapidated schools. According to managing director of Society for Protecting the Rights of the Children (SPRC), there are approximately 1 million children living in underdeveloped or in impoverished neighbourhoods in Iran, who are deprived of education. Also 49 thousand children do not attend schools because they lack documents such as birth certificate or are active part of the workforce. This statistic does not fluctuate greatly each year however, during the Covid-19 pandemic there has been approximately a three-fold increase in the number of children deprived of basic education, due to lack of proper infrastructure for online education and a sudden shift from classrooms to online schools during the pandemic.

In the university level, in addition to many systematic challenges for getting into universities, many students have been banned from attending higher education due to their religious belief. Students that believe in Baha’i faith are amongst those that are often deprived of either entering universities or completing their university degrees. In addition, on banning students from completing their higher education in Iranian Universities, many teachers and students or individuals that have any connection to the Baha’i Institute for Higher Education (BIHE) have also been arrested and given long prison terms.

Many student and teachers have also been arrested, suspended, expelled, or reprimanded for expressing their thoughts and opinions or for holding peaceful assemblies and publications.

These acts are violation of Freedom of thought and religion, Freedom of opinion and expression, Freedom of Assembly, and the right to education. It is worth mentioning that the right to education includes equal access to higher education for all on basis of merit.

Primary and basic education

Access to basic and primary education has not been equal for all because of various factors, including lack of infrastructure, lack of access for undocumented children, poverty, and cultural and language discriminations. According to the managing director of Society for Protecting the Rights of the Children (SPRC), there are approximately 1 million children living in underdeveloped or in impoverished neighbourhoods in Iran, who are deprived of education. Additionally, 49 thousand children do not attend schools because they lack identification documents such as birth certificate or are part of the workforce.

This statistic does not fluctuate greatly each year however, during the Covid-19 pandemic due to lack of proper infrastructure for online education and a sudden shift from classrooms to online schools across the country, there has been approximately a three-fold increase in the number of children deprived of basic education. According to Minister of Education 3 million and 225 thousand children are deprived of education because of lack of access to internet or devices such as smart phones, tablets and computers.

‘Shad’ online education platform asking for national identification number. Photo: Social Media

Covid-19 pandemic and unequal access to online educational platform of ‘Shad’

With the outbreak of the covid-19 virus and the closure of schools, Education Ministry announced that it would resume educating students via the Internet and using a platform called ‘Shad’. The online platform, which requires Internet, has been criticized by teachers and civil society activists from the beginning of its announcement. The problems of online education in Iran and sudden closure of schools without providing any significant support to deprived students includes, lack of access to reliable internet in many parts of the country specially in rural areas, and lack of financial ability of students and their families to purchase necessary devices such as smart phones for this type of education .

Undocumented children: Another major discriminatory aspect of ‘Shad’ platform is that it requires students to register with their national identification number, which leaves undocumented children without access to primary and basic education.

Children in rural areas: There are also reports from various areas of the country that with lack of proper internet connection children have to climb to high points near their cities to be able to connect to internet and the Shad platform to attend classes.

Children from poor-housing or margins of cities: a great proportion of Iran’s population live on the margins of cities or are living in poor-housing conditions. Children living in these conditions are disproportionately affected by the sudden shift to online education and are further discriminated. According to Assembly of Spatial Planning of the Land, in 2020, 45% of Iran’s population were living in poor-housing or on the margins of cities. He continues, “if we calculate 45% of the 85 million population of the country that is today 38 million people living in the margins of cities or in poor-housing.”

Considering these statistics, almost half of the population of the country are living in conditions that makes online-education inaccessible for them.

Photo: IRNA

University and higher education

Higher education in Iran has limited sits available through a national examination system, where all students who wish to enter university have to pass this exam to enter into universities. Based on participants rank in this exam students will be placed into universities and majors of their choices. This exam is highly competitive and often students do not get accepted into their chosen university or majors. In recent years Supreme Leaders office had announced lower sits available to female students, however female students continue to take up more than half of university sits by higher acceptance rate compared to male students. According to the head of Sanjesh institute responsible for carrying out the national university entrance exam (operating under Ministry of Science, Research and Technology), in 2020, 101 thousand and 912 women passed the national university entrance examination that is 53.6% of all the those who registered.

Photo: FARARU

The following section consist of statistics by the statistics department of Human Rights Activists (HRA)

Methodology: The following statistics have been gathered and prepared by the statistic department of Human Rights Activists (HRA). These statistics consist of aggregation of data from HRA’s exclusive reports and documentation efforts, as well as data gathered from public sources. All the gathered information are fact checked to assure their authentication. This data is not exhaustive as many information and statistics are not available or HRA has not been able to verify their authenticity. However, this is a comprehensive report of the available data that HRA has been able to verify.

University Students

In the one-year period, between January 24, 2020 to January 20, 2021, 7 students were arrested, 3 student’s homes were raided by authorities and their personal belongings were confiscated, and 11 student activists were sentenced to a total of 512 months of imprisonment and 222 floggings.

Violation of the Right to Education: 23 Baha’i students were deprived of continuing their education because of their faith.

Violation of the Right to Freedom of Expression and Peaceful Assembly: 20 students of the Mohaghegh University of Ardabil were reprimanded and suspended from university for gathering and attending the memorial of the victims of flight #PS752 tragedy.

Additionally The student publication of ‘Zed va Forough’ was shut down by authorities.

There has been reports of injuries resulting from the neglect and lack of proper infrastructure at universities and student residencies. On 28th January 2020, 4 students were taken to medical facilities after being poisoned by a methane gas leak from a sewage well at the Buein Zahra Technical University (BZTE) of Qazvin.

In this reporting period 21 student protests took place across the country.

Teachers and Union Activists

In the period of one year between January 24, 2020 to January 20, 2021, 3 teachers were arrested, 13 teachers were sentenced to a total of 334 months of imprisonment, 45 floggings and twelve million and hundred Toman in fines.
On August 10, 2020, a teacher at Jared and Balade a part of Kazeroun city of Fars Province committed suicide by drinking poison and lost his life. The reason behind his suicide has been attributed to failing the adult literacy exam.

 

For media and other inquiries please contact Skylar Thompson, Senior advocacy Coordinator at Human Rights Activists (HRA), Email: [email protected]

30 Baha’is were summoned to the court in Shiraz

Posted on: March 17th, 2020

On March 14, 2019, 30 Baha’i citizens were summoned to Branch 10 of the Revolutionary Court of Shiraz. Their summon was related to a case that was opened back in 2016 against them by the Intelligence Ministry. They were charged with “membership in an opposition group” and “propaganda against the state”. They were identified as follows:

Noushin Zanhari, Esmail Rousta, Behnam Azimpour, Saeed Hasani, Ramin Shirvani, Marjan Gholampour, Mojgan Gholampour, Farid Shademan, Farzad Shademan, Parisa Rouhizadegan, Shamim Akhlaghi, Sahba Farahbakhsh, Sahba Moslehi, Ahdyeh Enayati, Mahyar Sefidi, Shadi Sadegh Aghdam, Vargha Kaviani, Soroush Ighani, Maryam Eslami, Yekta Fahandaj Saadi, Nabil Tahzib, Samar Ashnaei, Rezvan Yazdani, Lala Salehi, Nasim Kashani, Bahareh Norouzi, Niloufar Hakimi, Farzan Masoumi, Shahnaz Sabet, and Farhad Sabet

 

Background

Marjan Gholampour, Mojgan Gholampour, Farid Shademan, Farzad Shademan, Parisa Rouhizadegan, Shamim Akhlaghi, Sahba Farahbakhsh, Sahba Moslehi, Ahdyeh Enayati, Mahyar Sefidi, Shadi Sadegh Aghdam, Vargha Kaviani, Soroush Ighani, and Maryam Eslami were arrested in 2016 and were transferred to Ministry of Intelligence Detention Center in Shiraz known as the No. 100 Detention Center.

On October 3, 2016, Bahareh Norouzi and her husband, Siamak Honarvar were arrested and their house was searched and their belongings were confiscated. They were also transferred to the No.100 Detention Center.

On October 10, 2016, Vargha Kaviani, Shamim Akhlaghi, Farid Shademan, Soroush Ighaei, Farzad Shademan, and Mojgan Gholampour were released from Adel Abad Prison on 200 million Tomans bail along with 92 other prisoners.

On October 11, 2016, Marjan Gholampour, Maryam Eslami, and Parisa Rouhizadegan were released from prison on 200 million Tomans bail.

Moreover, Noushin Zanhari, Esmail Rousta, Behnam Azimpour, Saeed Hasani, and Ramin Shirvani were arrested along with several other Baha’i citizens in June 2016. They were released on 200 million Toman bail after a month.

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.

Ali Ahmadi, a Baha’i citizen, Was Sentenced to 11 Years Imprisonment

Posted on: December 5th, 2019

On December 2, 2019, Ali Ahmadi, a Baha’i citizen, was sentenced to an 11-year prison term by Qaemshahr Revolutionary Court.

On November 20, 2018 he was arrested by security forces. He was transferred to solidarity confinement at Kachoui Detention Center in Sari. On January 2, 2019, after 43 days of imprisonment, he was temporarily released on 150 million Tomans bail. He was charged with “propaganda against the state”. He has been arrested at least five times during last 10 years.

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.

11 Baha’is were arrested in Isfahan and Omidiyeh

Posted on: December 2nd, 2019

Soroush Azadi is the tenth Baha’i citizen who was arrested in November 2019 by security forces in Baharestan in Isfahan. He was arrested on November 30, 2019. His whereabouts is still unknown. On the same day, two Baha’i citizens, Bardia Farzaneh and his uncle, Esmail Farzaneh, were arrested at their homes in Omidiyeh in Khuzestan. They were transferred to an unknown place. Their houses were searches and their belongings were confiscated.

Moreover, on November 29, 2019, nine other Baha’i residents of Baharestan in Isfahan were arrested and their houses were searched and their belongings were confiscated. They were identified as following:

Shahab Ferdosian, Nasim Jaberi, Mehran Allahverdi, Shahbaz Bashi, Vahideh Niazmand, Naser Lotfi, Ghodus Lotfi, Saghar Manouchehrzadeh, and Homa Manouchehrzadeh

Additionally, earlier on November 16, Nasr Rajab, Baha’i resident of Karaj, was arrested and his house was searched and his cell phone and Identification card were confiscated.

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.

Seven Baha’is Were Sentenced to 21 Years Imprisonment in Bushehr

Posted on: November 25th, 2019

Bushehr Appellate Court upheld sentences of seven Baha’i citizens. On May 5, 2019, they were sentenced to 21 years imprisonment, compiled, by the Bushehr Revolutionary Court. Mino Riazati, Asadollah Jaberi, Ehteram Sheykhi, Emad Jaberi, Farideh Jaberi, Farokhlegha Faramarzi, and Pooneh Nasheri were each sentenced to three years imprisonment.

They were arrested on February 13, 2018 by the security forces. Their houses were searched and their personal belongings such as laptops, books, flash memories, external hard drives, and family albums were confiscated. On March 6, 2018, Pooneh Nasheri and Emad Jaberi were temporarily released on 250 million Tomans bail. Subsequently, Mino Riazati, Asadollah Jaberi, Ehteram Sheykhi, Farideh Jaberi, and Farokhlegha Faramarzi, were released on 250 million Tomans bail on March 13, 2018.

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.

Three Baha’is were sentenced to 23 years imprisonment

Posted on: November 15th, 2019

Behnam Eskandari, Yalda Firouzian, and Ardeshir Fanaiyan, three Baha’i citizens residing in Semnan, were sentenced to 23 years in prison and live in exile.

They were arrested on April 30, 2019 by the security forces, their personal belongings were confiscated, and they were transferred to Semnan Prison. The Revolutionary Court of Semnan put hold on their temporary releases. They are banned from having any visitor and contact with outside of prison. Behnam Eskandari was under pressure in the course of his interrogation for forced confession. He was resilient and was transferred to the quarantine ward where he was beaten by two other prisoners.

According to the verdict issued by the Semnan Revolutionary Court headed by judge Mohammad Ali Rostami, Ardeshir Fanaiyan was sentenced to 10 years imprisonment and one year live in exile in Khash on the charge of “cooperation in establishing an illegal group inside the country with the aim of acting against the national security”. Yalda Firouzian and Behnam Eskandarian were sentenced to five years imprisonment and two years ban from living in Semnan, each on the charge of “membership in establishing an illegal group inside the country with the aim of acting against national security”. Also, each of them were sentenced to a one-year prison term for the charge of “cooperation in acting against national security in favor of opposition groups”. Based on the Article 134 of Iran’s Islamic Penal Code, the charge with the highest penalty will be considered; this means that Ardeshir Fanaiyan should spend 10 years in prison, Yalda Firouzian, and Behnam Eskandaian should spend five years in prison, each.

Ardeshir Fanaiyan’s first arrest was on January 8, 2019 and was sentenced to an eight-month prison term. Although the law of arresting the eligible ones for military service has been cancelled.

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.

Three Baha’is Were Arrested in Shiraz

Posted on: October 21st, 2019

On October 21, 2019, three Baha’i citizens were arrested in Shiraz while their houses and several other Baha’i houses were searched and their personal belongings such as laptops, cell phones, and computers were confiscated. Farzan Masoumi, Kiana Shoaei, and Soroush Abadi were arrested by the Intelligence Department officers and were transferred to an undisclosed location. The identities of the other Baha’i citizens whose houses were searched are still unknown.

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.

22 Iranian Baha’is Were Denied Higher Education in September

Posted on: September 22nd, 2019

At least 22 Baha’i students have reportedly been denied entry to universities in Iran despite successfully passing the national admissions test. These Baha’i applicants received a short message with the content: “Dear applicant, there is a flaw in your dossier. Please contact the Response Unit of the Appraisal Agency” when checking their test results online. Last year, at least 58 Baha’i students received the same message. Since 2006, this message has been used to inform several Baha’i students about rejection of their applications.

The 22 Baha’i students who have successfully passed the university entrance exam in 2019 but have been banned from higher education are identified by the Human Rights Activists News Agency as the following (name, city):

Seraj Safaryan (Sari), Tara Ehsan (Karaj), Rojin Kasiri (Karaj), Shamim Idelkhani (Ardabil), Sahand Shirazi (Tehran), Mahtab Khadem (Tehran), Armaghan Enayati (Semnan), Siavash Baloch Gherai (Mashhad), Shailin Aghili (Karaj), Negar Ighani (Shiraz), Rojan Ehsani (Kashan), Ghazal Allahverdi Gorji (Sari), Taranom Kamali (Shiraz), Negin Foroughi (Tehran), Dorsa Mostafavi (Tehran), Aria Ehsani (Karaj), Behzad Yazdani (Sari), Sholeh Movafaghi Eyvali (Sari), Mahsa Forouhari (Karaj), Vafa Nobakht (Sari), Aylar Roshan Nahad (Isfahan), and Noorieh Ferdosian (Isfahan)

Denying Baha’i students’ entry to universities in Iran is not an unprecedented matter. They have been systematically denied access to higher education by the Iranian government. Even dozens of Baha’is who have successfully passed the national examinations and other hurdles to continue their education at the university level have been forced to drop out, even several years into their programs.

Although 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. The Baha’i faith is not acknowledged as an official religion by the Iranian government. As a result, the rights of Baha’is in Iran are systematically violated. Over the years, the government used various tactics at different stages of university admission process including application, entrance examination and enrollment, to exclude Baha’is from education at colleges and universities. From a small number of Baha’i students who have been able to register and start their studies at universities, the majority have been expelled at some point before graduation

Mitra Badrnejad Sentenced to Imprisonment

Posted on: September 18th, 2019

Mitra Badrnejad, a Baha’i resident of Ahvaz, was sentenced to a one-year prison term by the Khuzestan Appeals Court. In October 2018, she was sentenced to five years imprisonment by the Branch 2 of Ahvaz Revolutionary Court. She was arrested on March 3, 2018 and was temporary released on bail on May 14, 2018.

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.

Although 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. The Baha’i faith is not acknowledged as an official religion by the Iranian government. As a result, the rights of Baha’is in Iran are systematically violated.

Searching Houses, Confiscating Belongings, and Summoning 12 Baha’is in Isfahan

Posted on: July 3rd, 2019

Between 9-15 June 2019, the houses of nine Baha’i families, Arshad Afshar, Aziz Afshar, Peyman Imani, Mahboubeh Hosseini, Bahram Safaei, Mehran Yazdani, Mesbah Karambakhsh, Sirous Golzar, and Naieem Haghiri were searched by security forces with warrant in Shahin Shahr. Cell phones, laptops, tablets, satellite devices, books, photos, pictorial carpets, identification documents, and working tools were confiscated. These citizens, along three other Baha’i citizens, were summoned by the judicial authorities.

The search had been going on, on different days, from 9 am to 2 pm by a group of seven security agents. They searched 11 Baha’i citizens’ houses and confiscated about 100 million Toman [approximate 7,000 USD] worth of belongings from these citizens. The agents didn’t provide any response to these families’ queries.

These 11 Baha’i citizens were summoned to the Intelligence Office. In addition, Naeem Haghiri was fired from his job under pressure of the intelligence office while Mitra Tashakori, Baha’i resident of Shahin Shahr, was summoned and threatened. Within the last two weeks, several previously licensed Baha’i businesses were shut down.

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.

More than 300,000 Baha’is live in Iran. Iran’s constitution, however, recognizes only 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.