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Iranian Baha’i Students Offered University Enrollment in Exchange For Renouncing Their Faith

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CHRI - Two members of the persecuted Baha'i faith in Iran have been offered university enrollment in exchange for renouncing their religion, according to information received by the Center for Human Rights in Iran (CHRI).

According to the Baha'i-focused Payam News, in recent weeks at least 100 Bahai's were rejected by Iranian universities despite passing entrance exams in 2017.

The rejected students received the following message: "Dear applicant, please go to the University Evaluation Organization (UEO) to answer questions about defects in your file."

"When I went to the UEO's office three weeks ago, an official with the last name 'Jafari' directly told me that my file had a problem because I'm a Baha'i," a 19-year-old member of the faith, who asked not to be identified, told CHRI on September 24, 2017.

"The official put two forms in front of me," added the student. "One form was for personal information and the other contained a statement that I would not follow the tenets of the Baha'i faith, whose leadership is based in Palestine, and agree not to carry out any religious activities."

The rejected student said he did not sign the statement and instead asked for a blank piece of paper, on which he wrote: "I am a Baha'i and I believe in my faith. I love my country and if I am accepted at the university, I will not discuss my faith as long as I am not asked anything about it."

"Mr. Jafari said the authorities would look into my case and let me know if I had been accepted," added the student. "We said goodbye and I left, but I still haven't heard anything."

"This is the second year I was unable to enter the university and study like others my age," said the student.

An 18-year-old student who was denied access to higher education in Iran told CHRI that he was told at the UEO that he would only be allowed entry into the university if he converted to Islam.

"The UEO authorities said I would have the opportunity to gain a university education if I wrote a statement that I am now a Muslim and repent forever for being a Baha'i," said the student. "I refused to write it and so I was denied enrollment."

"This is a clear example of an inquisition and a violation of human rights," added the student, who spoke on condition of anonymity. "I also had a similar experience when I won placement in a high school for the gifted, but the headmaster found out about my religion and refused to enroll me."

The student told CHRI that the Parliament, judiciary and the president's office all refused to look into the complaints he filed about the incident.

News about the ongoing denial of higher education to Baha'is in Iran in 2017 emerged as Judiciary Spokesman Gholam-Hossein Mohseni-Ejei claimed on September 17, 2017, that "no individual is arrested simply for being a Baha'i or a follower of any other faith."

He was responding to questions about Mahvash Sabet, a Baha'i community leader who was released from prison on September 18, 2017, after serving 10 years in prison for her religious beliefs.

Iranian officials deny prosecuting Baha'is for their religious beliefs, but the community is one of the most severely persecuted religious minorities in Iran. The faith is not recognized in the Islamic Republic's Constitution and its members face harsh discrimination in all walks of life as well as prosecution for the public display of their faith.

According to Article 1of Iran's Supreme Cultural Revolution Council's student qualification regulations, which were approved by Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei in 1991, students who take the national enrollment exam must be either Muslim or followers of other constitutionally sanctioned religions. Article 3 also states that if a student is discovered to be a Baha'i after enrolling in a university, he or she will be expelled.

There are currently some 90 members of the Baha'i faith in prison in Iran due to the practice of their religion, including six community leaders.

In December 2014, Ayatollah Mohammad Mousavi Bojnourdi, a former member of the Supreme Cultural Revolution Council, declared: "We will never accept that Baha'is have the right to education. They don't even have rights as citizens."