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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

Documentary tells story of Baha’is

The University of Massachusetts Baha’i Club hosted a screening yesterday of the film “Education under Fire,” a documentary about underground Baha’i schools in Iran.

Justin Surgent/Collegian

The documentary was presented in Herter Hall yesterday to raise awareness about persecution of people of the Baha’i faith, according to senior journalism and environmental design major Kimya Hedayat-Zadeh, a member of the Baha’i Club.

Baha’i people – members of a minority religious group in Iran, a primarily Muslim country – have been denied access to education for years. In the late 1980’s, people of the faith began forming secret illegal schools, according to the documentary.

“Baha’is have always faced persecution, arrest, torture, along with other marginalized groups in the country,” said Hedayat-Zadeh. “It is becoming more and more pronounced, the level of determination Iranian government to keep its people Baha’is and others included from bettering themselves.”

Ramin Abrishamian, originally from Iran and now a resident of Boston came to the screening at UMass yesterday to speak on the film.

“Baha’is have been persecuted in Iran for a long time … including imprisonment and executions,” said Abrishamian in an interview before the screening. “One of the worst things that the Islamic republic has done against the Baha’is is to prevent the Baha’i students from attending university.”

In Iran, people of the Baha’i faith are not allowed to enroll in college, according to the documentary. The film explained that members of the secret education system, known as the Baha’i Institute of Higher Education, meet all over Iran’s providences, and study in houses, unknown to the Iranian government.

People come to study from all over Iran, and must communicate only by word of mouth so as not to be discovered, because when the Iranian authorities uncover a secret Bahai school, they confiscate the house and arrest the participants, according to the documentary.

Sophomore chemical engineering major and Baha’i Club secretary Iman Khozouee said he wants people to be aware of the issues facing fellow Baha’i people.

According to Khozouee, the club has hopes that UMass will follow the lead of other American schools by accepting credits from students of the Baha’i Institute of Higher Education.

The documentary told the story of numerous Iranians, both of the Baha’i and Muslim faiths, who encountered first hand or heard from family and friends about the Baha’i Institute of Higher Education.

In 1997, the Iranian government began attacking homes in which classes were being held. They arrested many of the processors and confiscated the homes, according to Abrishamian.

One story shared by a member of the Muslim faith in the documentary was that of a man recollecting his childhood in Iran. At that time, Baha’i children were required to drink from separate water fountains from the Muslim children. The man said he was friends with a Baha’i classmate, and when it would come time to drink from the water fountains after exercise, he would drink from the Baha’i fountain with his friend.

He was instructed by his teachers not to do so, and went home and asked his mother why he could not drink from the same water fountain as the Baha’i children. He said his mother told him that some people were uneducated and stupid, and told him to “drink from whatever water fountain you want.”

Hedayat-Zadeh, who has been a member of the UMass Baha’i Club since her freshman year, said she was motivated to show this documentary and raise awareness after hearing about raids on the Baha’i Institute of Higher Education in 2011.

“I am a Baha’i myself, so I’ve grown up learning about the principles of the Baha’i faith. Throughout my life I’ve known that my parents faced discrimination in Iran as Baha’is,” she said.

Steffi Porter can be reached at [email protected].

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  • B

    Badi19Aug 31, 2012 at 3:46 am

    And Baha’is are cleaning :
    BUPC Baha’is
    Orthodox Baha’is
    Neal Chase Baha’is
    Jacques Soghomonian Baha’is
    And all non-Haifan Baha’is

  • W

    world citizenApr 26, 2012 at 11:30 am

    I feel it is important to understand that even in cases where oppressors identify themselves as part of a religion, they are probably the least representative of that religion’s principles, as the overarching purpose of all religions is to bring unity and understanding. The Education Under Fire documentary notes the support received from Muslim friends of the Faith in Iran. Also, there is a Muslim Network for Baha’i Rights website, and in my own experience, some of the most meaningful interactions I have had sharing my faith background have been with a Muslim friend.

  • A

    ArafatApr 13, 2012 at 9:32 am

    Another people being ethnically cleansed by Muslims.

    Muslims are also ethnically cleansing:

    Coptic Christians from Egypt.
    Chaldeans from Iraq.
    Gays from throughout the Muslim world.
    Hindus from Bangladesh.
    Buddhists from southern Thailand.
    Christians from the Caucus regions.
    Christians from Nigeria.
    Blacks from Sudan.
    Animists from Sudan.
    Jews from all Islamic countries.
    Zoroastrians from Iran.
    Shi’ites from Saudi Arabia.
    Sunnis from Iraq.