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Baha’is of Iran

Dr. Parviz Javid: Baha'i Pharmacologist and Educational Pioneer

January 20, 2023
Kian Sabeti
5 min read
Dr. Parviz Javid was the first professor of physical pharmacy in Iran
Dr. Parviz Javid was the first professor of physical pharmacy in Iran
When he returned after completing his education in the United States, Dr. Javid was immediately invited to teach at the University of Tehran
When he returned after completing his education in the United States, Dr. Javid was immediately invited to teach at the University of Tehran
For 24 years until the end of his life, Dr. Javid lived far away from his family only because he wanted to serve his country
For 24 years until the end of his life, Dr. Javid lived far away from his family only because he wanted to serve his country

Dr. Parviz Javid was a prominent Baha’i scientist in Iran. When he returned from the United States, where he had completed his studies, he was invited to teach at the University of Tehran. Dr. Javid was the university’s first professor of physical pharmacy, the branch of pharmacy that concentrates on the applications of physics and chemistry to medicinal drugs, in Iran.

Parviz Javid was born in 1927 in Tehran. When he was four years old, he had an accident that damaged his physical growth, his vision and his hearing for life. Despite these impediments, he was able to continue his education at Tehran University after finishing high school and he received his doctorate in pharmacology.

Dr.  Javid worked at a pharmacy in Tehran for some years. But he was eager to advance his learning and left for the United States to pursue further studies. He earned PhD degrees in physical pharmacy from Wisconsin University and in physical chemistry from Ohio State University.

After completing his education, Dr. Javid’s work prospects in the US were bright. He had lived in the country for more than 10 years and was familiar with American culture and the American way of life, but he loved Iran and returned to his country of birth in 1969.

The University of Tehran invited him to teach as soon as he returned. Dr. Javid was the first professor of physical pharmacy in Iran, and he also taught chemical pharmacy. His courses included industrial chemistry, bio-pharmacy and hospital pharmacy. He was the first teacher of bio-pharmacy at the University of Tehran.

From 1970, Dr. Javid taught physical pharmacy also at Tabriz University and then at Mashhad University, where he also taught bio-pharmacy for two years.

In 1976, Dr. Javid, his wife and their child left Iran to again live in the United States. They had been in the US for about two years when the Islamic Revolution of 1979 overthrew the Shah. Dr. Javid, who was always looking for a chance to serve his country and its people, decided that he was needed in Iran and that he must return. Many tried to dissuade him: the new Islamic government had made its antagonism to Baha’is clear by arresting and executing many Baha’is and confiscating their properties.

But Dr. Javid left his family behind in the US, returned to Iran in 1979, and remained there for the rest of his life.

Dr. Javid resumed teaching at the University of Tehran. But the expulsion of Baha’i teachers from Iran’s universities started in 1980; Dr. Javid was also expelled, and he was banned from teaching.

Dr. Javid later recalled that the School of Pharmacology at the University of Tehran had no qualified teachers for what he had been teaching. The university assigned a masters student to teach the course who took Dr. Javid’s own lessons, reading them aloud to a group of students, until a group of students visited Dr. Javid and asked him to teach his own course in person.

Dr. Javid accepted to teach without pay. His students went to the university president and convinced him to accept this arrangement. Dr. Javid lived on Golha Square in Tehran at the time and, for two years, he would take a double-decker bus from his home to the university, returning home after teaching his classes.

Dr. Javid himself was always studying. He was up to date in his field and was knowledgeable in other fields too, such as the arts and cinema. His students loved his sense of humor and wit.

When university officials saw his popularity among the students, they summoned him and pressured him to abandon his faith. They even promised him that, if he complied, they would appoint him president of the School of Pharmacology. Dr. Javid rejected their offer and refused to yield to their pressures. The university president responded by banning him from campus.

By now, in 1982, the crackdown on the Baha’is was reaching its peak. Dr. Javid’s home was confiscated that year. A pharmacologist husband and wife, who had been his students, invited Dr. Javid to work with them at a 24-hour pharmacy in northern Tehran. Dr. Javid took the night shift – the owners even installed a bed in the pharmacy so that Dr. Javid could rest during the night.

The Islamic Republic had banned Baha’is from working and studying in higher education but, in 1985, Baha’is in the United States worked with Indiana University to offer correspondence courses to Iranian Baha’i students in Iran. The university did not have official representatives in Iran so it asked the Baha’i community to provide the university with five senior science professors who would act its representatives and perform the necessary tasks. One of these five was Dr. Javid.

Dr. Javid and two other professors later founded he Baha’i Institute for Higher Education, or BIHE, in 1987, an informal educational initiative or “underground university” for Iranian Baha’i students barred from studying at Iran’s public universities. Many worried that the BIHE would not last long under the highly repressive regime of the Islamic Republic, with its extreme hostility to the Baha’i community, but today hundreds of universities, including some of the world’s best institutions, recognize BIHE degrees and qualifications. And many BIHE graduates have pursued post-graduate qualifications in universities around the world.

In the winter of 1999, as Dr. Javid was walking to the pharmacy where he worked, he was hit by a car and the accident broke his leg. The culprit escaped and Dr. Javid could not work for some time.

Dr. Javid passed away in Tehran on October 19, 2003, when he was 76 years old. For 24 years he had lived far from his family – because he wanted to serve his country.

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