Massachusetts Daily Collegian

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A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

Baha’i students try to get credit for work done in underground Iranian schools

Efforts are being made by the University of Massachusetts Baha’i club to convince university officials to accept credits earned at underground schools in Iran.

In Iran, members of the Baha’i faith, a minority religious group, have been denied access to education for years. The has lead them to form secret, illegal schools, according to a documentary titled “Education Under Fire,” which the UMass Baha’i club presented in Herter Hall earlier this month.

Now, Baha’i students migrating to the U.S. from Iran are trying to convince their universities to accept the credits they received in these underground schools, known as the Baha’i Institute of Higher Education.

“Baha’is in Iran go through … a very rigorous schooling,” said Shaina Rastegari, a junior marketing and hospitality and tourism major, and events manager for the UMass Baha’i club. “They really are making a huge effort in Iran to go to universities and when they come here it’s really unfortunate that these credits aren’t being recognized and a lot of them have to start from scratch.”

Members of the Baha’i club have drafted a letter which they intend to distribute to various authorities at the University, such as the registrar, the vice chancellor or the chancellor, according to UMass senior computer systems engineering major Adib Khozouee.

A sophomore chemical engineering major at UMass, who asked to remain anonymous due to the sensitivity of the topic, said she once attended underground schools in Iran, before coming to America three years ago.

She said that during her time in BHIE her school had to change its location three times, because every time the Iranian government would discover it, the school would be shut down.

The Iranian native came to America for economic reasons, and also to find more employment and education opportunities. She began attending UMass in the fall of 2011, after attending community college. She is now a member of the Baha’i club, and a part of the effort to convince UMass to accept BHIE credits.

“Baha’i students are really trying hard to have a good level of education,” she said. “It’s easier for them [in the U.S.] if they don’t have to start over.”

She said that in Iran, it is very difficult for Baha’i people to get educated and to get employed.

UMass senior journalism and environmental design major Kimya Hedayat-Zadeh, a member of the Baha’i club, said that the club initiated the efforts to convince UMass to accept these credits.

“The Baha’i club wanted to step up and do something to get the credits accepted at UMass,” she said, adding that the club wanted to do so after members heard about efforts being made in other Universities.

More than fifty universities outside of Iran have already accepted BIHE credits, including Boston University, University of Chicago, California State University, as well as numerous colleges and universities in the United Kingdom and Canada.

“Education is something that, especially in the U.S., we’re so accustomed to, and we’re so used to having the ability to be educated wherever we want,” said Rastegari. “There are certain things that restrict people from getting an education in the U.S., but people are never denied just based on their beliefs.”

According to Rastegari, the Baha’i club is trying to show the UMass administration that the coursework from BIHE is at the same level as UMass coursework. Rastegari said that education is often taken for granted, and that she and the Baha’i club want to make people aware of the situation Baha’i people are faced with.

“I think it’s very important for people to become aware of the fact that there are people in other places in the world who are being denied their right to higher education and that should never happen,” said Rastegari. “You should never be denied access to education based on what you believe in.”

Steffi Porter can be reached at [email protected]


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    nApr 28, 2012 at 12:41 pm

    These people have my moral support. They risked their lives and reputations by pursuing an education against the will of the absolutely, purely evil and repressive regime of iran, and came to America, having recognized that they are safer here and that the pursuit of happiness is still possible in this country. Why would our school not recognize students of BHIE?