Sogol Zabihi, 21, a Baha’i undergraduate student of graphics at the non-profit Rassam University of Karaj, has discovered that she has been expelled from university and can no longer continue her education because of her religion.
“Sogol started her undergraduate studies in the field of graphics in 2016,” a source close to Zabihi told IranWire. “She studied at the university for two years and completed four semesters. Around May, as with earlier semesters and a month before the final exams for the semester were to start, she tried to sign on to the university’s official website to request the usual entry permit, but the site would not allow her to log on. It instructed her to go to the Education Evaluation Organization in Tehran.” This organization, part of the Ministry of Science, Research, and Technology, oversees all aspects of nationwide university entrance exams and admissions.
Zabihi first went to her university to try to solve the problem, but the people she spoke with told her that they know nothing about it. Then the university’s director general of education, a Ms. Dehghani, recommended that she should go to the evaluation organization. She did, but when she introduced herself and explained the problem she was not allowed into the building. Instead, she was insulted. She was also told on the phone that she had been expelled because, as a Baha’i, she has no right to study at institutes of higher education.
Over the last two months, she has returned to the offices of the evaluation organization several times, but she has received no clear answers and no official notification that she has been expelled. In one of these occasions, a Mr. Naeemaei, the deputy of the Student Selection Department, told her: “the Baha’is are not qualified for [higher] education,” and added that she should write a letter to Seyed Morteza Nourbakhsh, the director of the “Central Select Section for the Approval” because he was the only one who could solve her problem. The unit, also referred to as the “Ideological Select Section,” decides whether a student is “ideologically” qualified to study at a university — and routinely disqualifies civil rights and political activists as well as Baha’is. In any case, Zabihi is yet to receive an official answer to her letter or to her other inquiries.
Seyed Morteza Nourbakhsh is well known for being outwardly anti-Baha’i. He has been the section’s director since 2002, and held a similar job with the Ministry of Science from 2000. Although governments have come and gone, he has remained in his jobs over the last 18 years. In 2010, he announced in a press conference: “Students of fictitious religions and non-recognized religious minorities do not have the right to study in the Iranian universities, and if they are following their studies in universities, they have to ask the Central Select Section for approval” [Persian link].
With 300,000 followers, the Baha’i faith is the biggest religious minority in Iran, but the constitution of the Islamic Republic only recognizes Christians, Jews and Zoroastrians as religious minorities.
More on university education ban on Baha’i students in Iran:
Baha’i Students’ Constructive Struggle in Iran, July 11, 2018
Young Baha’i Tries for University but Ends up in Jail, November 14, 2017
129 Baha’is Banned from Education, February 6, 2017
Baha’is Banned from Education: The Case of Mona Houshmand, January 29, 2017
Shiraz University Bans Baha'i Student, January 24, 2017
The Crush Continues: Rouhani and the Ban on Baha’i Education, December 15, 2016
The Quiet Arrest of a Baha’i Student, March 16, 2016
My sister is jailed because she wants to study, March 12, 2016
Baha’is Banned from Education: “The order comes from the top,” September 22, 2015
A Baha’i Student Interviews Three Members of Iranian Parliament, December 18, 2014
Baha’is in Iran: The Pressure Mounts, February 25, 2014