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Iran: Religious Freedom

Volume 464: debated on Wednesday 17 October 2007

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what recent representations he has made to the Government of Iran on the persecution of the Baha’i community, with particular reference to young Baha’i people being allowed to attend university; and if he will make a statement. (158551)

We remain concerned about the treatment of religious minorities in Iran. The Baha’i faith is not formally recognised under the Iranian Constitution and as a result Baha’is routinely face persecution and discrimination. In recent years Baha’is have been subject to arbitrary arrests, confiscation of property and restrictions on employment. Denial of access to higher education has been a long-term problem for Baha’i students.

After the religious identifier was removed from the national university entrance examination in 2006, a number of Baha’i students sat the exam for last academic year (2006-07). Over 250 Baha’i students were admitted to campuses across Iran, but 120 were expelled throughout the year as the universities discovered their religion. This year, students applying to study at technical and vocational institutes were required to complete a form stating their religion. The options did not include the Baha’i religion, so Baha’i students were once again effectively excluded from applying to these institutions. We do not yet know the situation facing Baha’i university students this academic year, but we remain concerned that more Baha’is may be prevented from applying to university or expelled in the future.

We continue to monitor the situation and raise concerns about the treatment of the Baha’is with the Iranian authorities, bilaterally and through the EU. The EU presidency raised specific concerns about the issue of Baha’i access to higher education in meetings with the Iranian Ministry of Foreign Affairs on 1 September and 10 October.