rowing up in Tehran, Hamid knew that — like almost everywhere else in the world — the key to a good job is a university diploma. But because he is a Bahá’í, he knew he had little chance of getting into college.
“It made all of us Bahá’í youth very sad about the future,” said Hamid, which is not his real name. “In Iran, if you don’t have a university degree, it is very difficult to get a job.”
“Many nights I dreamed I was allowed to get into the university, but in the morning I woke up and it was only a dream.”
Now 32 years old and attending graduate school outside of Iran, Hamid had already been denied schooling once for being a Bahá’í. That was in 1984, when, as an 11-year-old in middle school, he was expelled along with most other Bahá’í children in Iran.
“For several months, I had to study at home,” he said. “My family helped me, but it was really tough for an 11-year-old child to study alone.”
An international outcry soon forced the government to re-enroll primary and secondary school children. But the government has continued to prevent Iranian Bahá’í youth from attending university.
“When I was in high school, I saw the other students studying and preparing to take the university entrance examination,” he said. “But I knew I had no hope of getting in.”
He tried submitting the forms to take the exams anyway. But in Iran, those forms require that prospective students put a mark to denote their religion. And there are only four possible religions to choose from: Islam, Christianity, Judaism, and Zoroastrianism.
“Since I didn’t belong to any of those denominations, I didn’t mark anything,” said Hamid, noting that there was, of course, no place for the Bahá’í Faith. “I was told I could not be given an entrance card to the exam.”
That was in 1992. He tried other years, also, to get into university. But to no avail.
Eventually, he enrolled at the Bahá’í Institute for Higher Education (BIHE), which at the time was little more than a correspondence school course for Bahá’ís, run by Bahá’ís. [See BIHE]
“In the BIHE, you have to study by yourself. It is kind of like studying in prison alone. You have no friends, no teachers, nobody to take your questions.”
Because he also had to work to help support himself, it took six years to finish his studies.
“Many nights I dreamed I was allowed to get into the university, but in the morning I woke up and it was only a dream,” he said.
Eventually, in 2003, Hamid graduated from the BIHE with a degree in engineering. By that time, the Institute had achieved considerable distinction, and Hamid left Iran to enter graduate school in another country.
He hopes, however, to go back to Iran after he has completed his graduate studies. “Iran is my country. And I wish for the day that the government of Iran will understand that Bahá’ís want nothing but the progress and prosperity of Iran. And I want to go back and help the progress of my country.”