More than a million students take Iran's national university entrance examination each year.
So Halaku Rahmaniyan was extremely pleased when he learned he had placed 76th from the top. "I was happy, because I knew that it was a good result and that I could enter any subject in any university with that ranking," the 18-year-old student from Tehran wrote in a blog recently.
He did not understand why, then, he still had not been accepted anywhere by December. So Mr. Rahmaniyan called the national Education Measurement and Evaluation Organization (EMEO), which administers the exam, and spoke with a top official. The official, too, was puzzled -- until Mr. Rahmaniyan said he was a Baha'i.
"Suddenly, after the word 'Baha'i,' he discontinued the call," wrote Mr. Rahmaniyan. Then he received a letter from the EMEO. "Respectfully, in response to your request for the issuance of a certificate of ranking for the year 2007, we would like to inform you that owing to you having an incomplete file, issuance of a certificate of ranking is not possible," stated the letter. The story is one of many from Iran in recent months that highlight the latest tactic by the Iranian government in its long-running campaign to block Baha'is from access to higher education: to claim that their examination files are somehow "incomplete." Almost 800 of the more than 1,000 Baha'is who sat for and properly completed the entrance exam in June 2007 have received word that their files are "incomplete" -- thus preventing their enrollment. "These latest figures show that, despite its denials, the Iranian government is continuing its campaign to prevent Baha'is from going to university," said Diane Ala'i, the Baha'i International Community's representative to the United Nations in Geneva.
"The tactic of claiming that the examination files of Baha'i students are somehow 'incomplete' is yet another ruse by the government to act as if it respects human rights while covertly moving ahead with its persecution of Baha'is," said Ms. Ala'i, noting that none of the some 900 Baha'is who sat for the examination in 2006 received a notice of "incomplete files." For more than 25 years, Baha'is have been banned from public and private universities in Iran. After pressure from the United Nations, governments, and academic, educational and human rights organizations, the government indicated in 2004 that it would stop asking university applicants about their religious affiliation, which seemed to open the door to Baha'i enrollments.
Each year since then, however, the government, which has been actively pursuing a campaign to identify all of the Baha'is in Iran and therefore is able to target Baha'i university students, has come up with some type of obstruction.