Sakset/Fra hofta

Rektor Lee Bollinger fikk kritikk for å være uhøflig mot gjesten Mahmoud Ahmadinejad under dennes besøk på Colombia-universitetet. Ahmadinejad kunne fremstå som forsonlig – bortsett fra homo-flausen – og han fremhevet at universitetet er en møteplass.

«In a university environment we must allow people to speak their mind, to allow everyone to talk so that the truth is eventually revealed by all.»

Det mangler ikke folk i norske medier som kjøper Ahmadinejads versjon. Men er det noen som har brydd seg med å undersøke om iranske universiteter praktiserer denne åpenheten?

Minoriteter og dissentere merker ingenting til den. De forfølges derimot og utestenges. Iran praktiserer en hemningsløs diskriminering; ett år måtte søkere til universiteten oppgi religion, og de som hadde en ikke-akseptabel tro var i utgangspunktet ekskludert. Hva ville reaksjonen vært hvis et vestlig land krevde en religiøs deklarasjon ved opptak til høyere utdannelse, og brukte dette til utestengning?

Likevel er det liten eller ingen interesse i norske medier for de konkrete forholdene i land som Iran.

Vi hyller mangfold og det flerkulturelle samfunn. Praksis i landene i Midtøsten er det stikk motsatte.

Bahais comprise Iran’s largest non-Muslim minority. They worship one God but recognize a broad series of divine messengers spanning Eastern and Western traditions. Though the sect is peaceful and shuns politics, Bahais have long been persecuted as apostates from Islam. Repression has escalated in recent years, possibly due to the ascendancy of the Hojjatieh, a secretive and militantly anti-Bahai organization that coalesced in 1953; Ahmadinejad is often reputed to be a member.

Iran’s educational establishment contributes to this campaign. Just days before the Columbia fiasco, Human Rights Watch noted that 800 of the 1,050 Bahais who took the summer 2007 standardized entrance exam have been unable to obtain their scores, thus halting the application process before it begins. «One student said that an official told him they had ‘received orders from above not to score the tests of Bahai students.’» Another official remarked that a student «would be able to receive his test scores only if his family renounced their faith.»

This episode is just the latest in a series of indignities suffered by Iranian Bahais who simply desire to learn. Prior to 2004, exam forms had mandated that students identify their religious affiliation from a list of pre-approved options. «Bahai» was never among them, resulting in rejection by default. While this requirement was dropped and 178 Bahais enrolled in the fall of 2006, at least seventy had been expelled by the following February. Finally, Bahai academies that aim to circumvent the state system are subjected to frequent raids and property seizures.

The paper trail places these actions in their proper context. A 1991 memorandum distributed by the Supreme Revolutionary Cultural Council proclaims that Bahais «must be expelled from universities, either in the admission process or during the course of their studies.» A leaked 2006 letter from the headquarters of Payame Noor University conveys similar instructions to its regional branches.

Religious issues alone do not drive academic discrimination in Iran; the freedoms of expression and association are treated with equal contempt.

Vår passivitet overfor undertrykkelsen i Iran er slående: siden han kom til makten har Ahmadinejad iverksatt utrensinger på universitet og høyskoler. Intoleransen gjennomsyrer samfunnet fra topp til bunn. Iran har et stort antall kurdere og azerere, og de blir også sett på med skepsis og mistenksomhet – som gruppe.

Iranian Universities: Apostates and Dissidents Need Not Apply