March 15, 2012
Dear Mr. President,
My name is Lily, and I am a student at Parkway West Middle School. I am also a Baha'i, which brings me to my reason for writing: the Baha'is are being denied education in Iran.
I'm not going to lie. Whenever I am asked about my religion (which is more often than you would think), after responding, people tilt their heads, draw their brow together, and ask, "Huh?" Baha'is are not well known, but our population is growing. My grandfather was a Baha'i when he emigrated here from Iran, and my mother is a Baha'i, too. I became interested in this because, every month, my household receives a letter from the Universal House Of Justice, and each letter asks us to pray for the Baha'is who are denied education because their religion is a frowned upon minority in Iran.
All Baha'is in Iran are not allowed to get a higher education, so they attend classes at the Baha'i Institute for Higher Education, or BIHE. However, this is an "underground" school system that is not welcomed in Iran. It is unjust for these people, who are discriminated against because of their religion, to not be allowed a higher education. Moreover, when these Baha'is apply to Iranian universities, there is little hope for their admission because they are Baha'is. The systematic persecution and the denial of higher education violate the freedom of belief and the freedom to an education: two basic human rights. This is unjustifiable.
Furthermore, educators were jailed because if their involvement with the BIHE. Legal appeals launched by these educators were overturned. These people, guilty only of teaching Baha'is, were unfairly punished. Teaching should be rewarded, not punished. This unreasonable persecution has gone on for far too long. It is time we put a stop to it.
Mr. President, I ask you to encourage American Universities to accept graduates of the BIHE into their schools. Last year, you publicly condemned the persecution of Baha'is in Iran in your Naw-Rúz greeting, and I cannot describe the joy on my grandfather's face when he heard this. I thank you from the bottom of my heart for all you have done, and I thank you for your time.
Parkway West Middle School
St. Louis, Missouri
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