The Iranian government is one step closer to eradicating discrimination against those deprived of higher education, but a cloud of uncertainty still hovers over the fate of Bahais.
Iranian students study as they wait for a bus in central Tehran, Jan. 16, 2016.
The government of President Hassan Rouhani has approved a bill on the right to further education and tabled it to the Iranian parliament. According to the Reformist daily Etemad, if ratified, the bill could decide the fate of so-called “starred students.” The term refers to university students barred from pursuing degrees for allegedly engaging in political activities deemed illegal and against national security. These activities could range from posting on social media to attending protests and leading student unions. Once marked as starred, these students are officially denied the right to move up the educational ladder despite having passed highly competitive entrance exams.
The widespread use of the practice brought the issue to greater light during the past two presidential elections in Iran, where candidates from both conservative and Reformist camps tried to appease the public by criticizing the policy.
Historian and university professor Gholamreza Zarifian described the practice as an oppressive measure that “after implementation turned into a political and social issue.”
Now, based on what has been approved by the Rouhani Cabinet, no one should be deprived of continuing education for reasons other than “lacking educational qualifications.” There are exceptions — namely with reference to “those convicted of organized crime, human trafficking, waging war against God and espionage.”
“If passed, the bill will fully consolidate the basic right to education as enshrined in chapter 3 of the constitution,” Rouhani’s deputy for legal affairs Laya Joneidi told Etemad.
The official Iran daily hailed the Cabinet decision as a crucial step toward eliminating educational discrimination, “a policy pursued by the administration of prudence and moderation” — the slogan of Rouhani’s government.
Interviewed by the same paper, Shahindokht Molaverdi — who serves as Rouhani’s special assistant for citizenship rights — also welcomed the step, saying, “With the new measure, no student will be deprived of education.”
But the key implication of the bill could be seen in the potential impact on Bahais, a faith that is outlawed by the Islamic Republic and whose followers are subjected to severe persecution. For decades, members of the Bahai community who openly endorse the faith have been denied higher education. That has, in consequence, forced a large number of them to seek education abroad.
Outspoken Reformist parliament member Mahmoud Sadeghi, a lawyer himself, was quick to react to the Cabinet measure. “Seemingly good news but bad news in reality,” he tweeted. Sadeghi added, “It is an unprofessional amendment, which turns the law against itself. Depriving people of the right to education on the basis of charges even for serious offenses violates the constitution.”
Sadeghi was notably challenged by one user, who tweeted, “How about Bahais whose right to continue education was denied by the Supreme Council of the Cultural Revolution 28 years ago?”
“This is also in breach of the right to education and is against the constitution,” Sadeghi replied.
The Rouhani Cabinet measure has yet to be ratified by the parliament and the conservative supervising body, the Guardian Council. Even if it overcomes the two hurdles, the original proposal has left out the fate of Bahais and has made no effort to abolish the old law approved by the Supreme Council of the Cultural Revolution, offering little promise for Bahais who have long complained of educational oppression among other forms of discrimination.
An Iranian flag flutters in front the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) headquarters in Vienna, Austria, March 4, 2019. Photo: Reuters / Leonhard Foeger / File.
The acting chief of the UN nuclear watchdog policing Iran‘s nuclear deal with major powers, Cornel Feruta, will meet senior Iranian officials in Tehran on Sunday, a spokesman for the International Atomic Energy Agency said on Friday.
“The visit is part of ongoing interactions between the IAEA and Iran,” the spokesman said
The headquarters of the World Zionist Organization (WZO) in Tel Aviv. Photo: Screenshot.
The World Zionist Organization (WZO) on Friday opened a three-day conference in Santiago, the capital of Chile, on the topic of confronting antisemitism in Latin America.
Convened by WZO vice-chair Yaakov Hagoel, the conference will involve 150 Jewish professionals from around the region who will receive briefings from “high-level experts in the field to deal with the growing phenomenon,” the Spanish-language Jewish news outlet Diario Judio reported.
Russian immigrants (new olim) attend an event marking the 25th anniversary of the great Russian aliyah to Israel from the former Soviet Union at the Jerusalem Convention Center on Dec. 24, 2015. Photo: Hadas Parush/Flash90.
JNS.org – For most olim, moving to Israel is the realization of a dream. After years of hoping and planning, making aliyah and taking root in the Jewish state is a joyous and exultant experience. Still, the big move is not without its challenges, and many new immigrants become frustrated while attempting to navigate Israeli bureaucracy, secure a job, and find the right neighborhood to call home.
Taglit-Birthright Israel trip participants visit the Western Wall in the Old City of Jerusalem, Aug. 18, 2014. Photo: Flash90.
JNS.org – “It’s so much more.” That’s the mantra of the 54 Jewish young adults from across North America who just wrapped up 10 weeks in Israel.
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