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Advancement of Women in Iran


You can kill me, but you cannot stop the emancipation of women.

Some 5 million Baha’is throughout the world, from Andorra to Zimbabwe, hold a special place in their heart for Iran, as it is the birthplace of their religion. The following are a few prominent examples:

A beautiful painting of Ṭáhirih by wonderful Baha'i artist, Ivan LloydA beautiful painting of Ṭáhirih by wonderful Baha'i artist, Ivan LloydAdvancement of Women
One of the earliest champions of women’s rights in Iran was a prominent follower of the Prophet-founders of the Baha’i religion named Tahirih (“The Pure One”). Before being strangled to death for her beliefs in 1851, she stated: “You can kill me as soon as you like, but you cannot stop the emancipation of women.”

Social Progress
In 1875, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, the son of Baha’u’llah who is the founder of the Baha’i Faith, wrote a significant treatise focusing on the possibilities for the social and economic development of Persia (modern day Iran). This book has been published in English under the title The Secret of Divine Civilization.

Education
“Everyone has the right to education.” — Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The Baha’i teachings lay a heavy emphasis on the importance of education for social progress. As early as the 1880s, small village-level schools were started by Baha’is in Iran, and the establishment of major primary and secondary schools in urban centers soon followed.

With their emphasis on the education of girls, Bahá’í schools promoted an entire generation of highly educated women in Iran. Shown here are members of the Bahá’í Committee for the Advancement of Women, in Tehran, 1950.With their emphasis on the education of girls, Bahá’í schools promoted an entire generation of highly educated women in Iran. Shown here are members of the Bahá’í Committee for the Advancement of Women, in Tehran, 1950.Around 1900, for example, the Tarbiyat School for Boys was founded in Tehran in 1899, and by 1911 the ground-breaking Tarbiyat School for Girls had been established. The Tarbiyat School for Boys in Tehran, was the first modern Baha’i school in Iran and it soon became known as one of the best schools in the country. In 1905, it was the only school in Tehran where mathematics was studied every day and students were separated by ability. Other Baha’i schools likewise quickly sprang up in Hamadan, Qazvin, Kashan, and Barfurush.

The Tarbiyat School for Girls, established in 1911, was likewise a leader in educational innovation at the time. It offered gymnastics and recess to girls more than 15 years before government schools allowed physical education for girls. The success of the Tarbiyat School for Girls inspired other Baha’i communities around the country to found girls’ schools. By the time the government forced most Baha’i schools to close in 1934, at least 25 schools for girls had been established by Baha’is.

New Zealand musician Grant Hindin-Miller, a Baha'i, giving a concert for Baha'i Education in State Schools (BESS) students in the Rainworth State School in Brisbane, Queensland, Australia. [2005-04-05]New Zealand musician Grant Hindin-Miller, a Baha'i, giving a concert for Baha'i Education in State Schools (BESS) students in the Rainworth State School in Brisbane, Queensland, Australia. [2005-04-05]The schools were open to all, and many children who were not from Baha’i families enrolled. About half of the students in the schools in Tehran were not Baha’i, for example. By 1920, some 10 percent of the estimated 28,000 primary and secondary school children in Iran were enrolled in Baha’i-run schools, according to one source.

Most of the Baha’i schools were closed by government decree in the mid-1930s due to their Baha’i affiliation.

For more information about Baha’i schools in Iran, see “The Forgotten Schools: The Baha’is and Modern Education in Iran, 1899-1937,” by Dr. Soli Shahvar.

Baha'i youth, from a diverse range of countries, who are serving as volunteer staff at the Baha'i World Centre in Haifa, Israel, 2004 - Photo by Edit KálmánBaha'i youth, from a diverse range of countries, who are serving as volunteer staff at the Baha'i World Centre in Haifa, Israel, 2004 - Photo by Edit KálmánService
Unfortunately, Baha’is arising to contribute to their society have also had their services used against them. In May 2006, 54 Baha’i youths were arrested for providing literacy programs to underprivileged youths in Shiraz. The Iranian government accused them of using the literacy programs for spreading the Baha’i teachings.

About the Persecution
Some 300,000 Bahá’ís live throughout Iran, making the Bahá’í Faith the country’s largest minority religion. Bahá’ís have been targets of discrimination and violence in Iran since the religion began there in the mid-nineteenth century. More than 200 Bahá’ís were killed in Iran between 1978 and 1998, the majority by execution, and thousands more were imprisoned. Today the Iranian government regards Bahá’ís as apostates and “unprotected infidels.” Bahá’ís in Iran have no legal rights, and they are not permitted to elect leaders of their community. The Bahá’í Faith has no clergy, and community affairs are coordinated by democratically elected governing councils called Spiritual Assemblies.

Iran in 1896 - A Bahá’í father and son (at left) in chains after being arrested with fellow Bahá’ís, in a photograph taken around 1896. Both were subsequently executed. Persecution are still going on as Bahais are not accepted and no considered as true citizens of Iran. Read more about the 7 innocents Iranian Baha'is on Trial today in Tehran.Iran in 1896 - A Bahá’í father and son (at left) in chains after being arrested with fellow Bahá’ís, in a photograph taken around 1896. Both were subsequently executed. Persecution are still going on as Bahais are not accepted and no considered as true citizens of Iran. Read more about the 7 innocents Iranian Baha'is on Trial today in Tehran.Bahá’ís in Iran are systematically denied jobs, pensions and the right to inherit property. More than 10,000 Bahá’ís have been dismissed from government and university posts since Iran’s 1979 revolution.

A letter from an Iranian university, Payame Noor, states that it is Iranian government policy to prevent Bahá’ís, on account of their religion, from enrolling in universities and that they must be expelled if discovered to have enrolled. A confidential letter issued in 2006 by the director general of the Central Security Office of Iran’s Ministry of Science, Research and Technology instructs 81 Iranian universities to expel any student who is discovered to be a Bahá’í. Bahá’ís have been barred from institutions of higher education since 1980.

All Bahá’í cemeteries, holy places and community properties were seized soon after the 1979 revolution. None have been returned, and many sites of the greatest historical significance to Bahá’ís have been destroyed.

In November 2004, the Bahá’ís of Iran wrote a courteous letter to then-President Mohammad Khatami in which they requested that their civil and human rights be respected. Since that letter was distributed, Bahá’ís throughout the country have been arrested and detained for varying periods of time.

Source: iran.bahai.us / bahai.org

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