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BIHE PROFILE #2

Working Outside the Box

W

hen confronted by four boxes — one for each of the major religions in Iran, Islam, Christianity, Judaism, and Zoroastrianism — on university entrance forms, Parviz took a distinctively creative route.

“I just drew another box, added the word ‘Bahá’í,’ and checked it,” said Parviz, which is not his real name.

The tactic failed to impress government authorities, who had since the early 1980s blocked Bahá’í youth from higher education.

When confronted by four boxes — one for each of the major religions in Iran, Islam, Christianity, Judaism, and Zoroastrianism — on university entrance forms, Parviz took a distinctively creative route. “I just drew another box, added the word ‘Bahá’í,’ and checked it,” said Parviz.

“They wrote back saying that the application was incomplete,” said Parviz, who is now out of Iran and studying in another country. “So I went to the testing office in the Ministry of Education, along with another Bahá’í friend.

“And I asked ‘What is wrong with my application.’ And the guy sitting there just looked up and said, ‘I think you know what is the problem.’ And we tried to talk about it with him. But finally he said ‘Either leave or I will call security.’”

His rejection was, of course, entirely expected. Thousands of Bahá’í young people have been denied access to higher education in Iran since the 1979 Islamic Revolution.

“I wasn’t shocked to be rejected” said Parviz. “But it was still a disappointment because each time you apply, you hope something might change.”

Parviz eventually managed to get a college education by enrolling at the Bahá’í Institute for Higher Education (BIHE), a Bahá’í-run institution founded in 1987 to provide university-level education for Bahá’í youth on a correspondence-school basis. [See BIHE]

“I knew all about the BIHE. It has its own exam, and I took that pretty much the same time as the national exam. And I got accepted and started. That was in 1990.”

Four-and-a-half years later, he graduated with a degree in civil engineering.

Parviz eventually found some work as a civil engineer, even though he could not obtain a license as a Bahá’í and a graduate of the BIHE.

“You don’t have to have a license in Iran. You do all the work and then have someone with an engineering license sign it for you for a fee. It is quite a common practice.”

Eventually, Parviz realized that to advance, and to pursue his goal of teaching, he needed a graduate degree. “I couldn’t go to graduate school in Iran, of course, so I left the country so that I could attend school outside,” said Parviz. At the time of this writing, he was pursuing a PhD at a noted Western university.

 

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