One that made me think… what these students are fighting for to get an education, when in the UK students often want it on a plate…
Once, during Ramadan in the mid-1990s, Erfan Sabeti was on his way to an all-day genetics class at the Baha’i Institute for Higher Education in Tehran.
He had taken to wearing a tie to show he was not a hard-liner, though the Ayatollah Khomeini had just issued a fatwa saying that ties were a symbol of westernisation. As he was about to get into a taxi, he was stopped by revolutionary guards.
Young and fearless at the time, Sabeti immediately told them he was a Baha’i going to a meeting, where the accepted costume was suit and tie. So they took him to their headquarters and one of them said: “You Baha’is are very cheeky, because we’ve got you ‘on our tongue’. We could swallow you up whenever we wanted, if it wasn’t for pressure from the international community.”
“They interrogated me for three or four hours,” Sabeti recalls now, “cut my tie and fined me about £5. By lunchtime they let me go. My professor was very worried and almost fainted when I told the story, because of the risk that I’d been followed.”
“Mona” (not her real name) also remembers that she and fellow students of the BIHE had to keep the location of classes and labs secret in order to avoid raids by the government.
“We were particularly cautious about the labs, because we didn’t want our textbooks, equipment, photocopiers, computers and teaching materials to be confiscated.”
So what exactly is the BIHE? Why has it long been a target of official hostility in Iran, subject to a notable crackdown in 1998 and now under even more severe threat?
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