Education Under Fire, Phase 2: Update and Review of Documentary

Education Under Fire (EUF) launched its second phase in August with two goals. The first is to raise the number of screenings/conversations of the EUF documentary from 200 to 1,000 by December 31. As of September 18 the number had risen to 767!

The second goal is to invite thousands to sign an Open Letter from Friends of the Baha’i Institute for Higher Education. That number stands at 2,077. You can add your name to the open letter at www.educationunderfire.com/openletter.

To make it easier to take part in Phase 2 of Education Under Fire you can receive a free DVD of the EUF documentary. We know that many of you have seen the film. But we also know that a lot of you have not yet screened it or entered into conversations about it.

As an added inducement to become involved, we are happy to share with you a review of the documentary written by a former BIHE student, which includes his personal insights.

Afshin Seysan attended the BIHE in Iran for two years. He now lives in Albuquerque, New Mexico, where he is a graduate student in the music department at the University of New Mexico. He and his wife, Flora Kiyan, were instrumental in convincing the administration at UNM to reverse its policy of not accepting BIHE credits and now to consider them on a case-by-case basis. Here is Afshin’s review of Education Under Fire.

Today information is power, and education plays an important role in how we, as human beings, use information and knowledge. We all want the best education possible for our children, and we know that we will have a better future if the generation after us is better educated.

The documentary entitled Education Under Fire explores the topic of higher education for the largest religious minority in Iran. The documentary, produced by Single Arrow Productions and sponsored in part by Amnesty International, profiles the Baha’i Institute for Higher Education (BIHE), its students and professors. It shows, in depth, their growth and their struggle to provide and receive a higher education in Iran.

From the beginning scenes, Education Under Fire grabs one’s attention and raises questions, which it answers very sincerely as the film unfolds. Baha’is in Iran are not allowed to pursue university-level education, and they are systematically persecuted.

In 1987 the Baha’i community in Iran created an educational program for all Baha’is called the Baha’i Institute for Higher Education to educate youth who had been deprived of education. As a music major who studied in BIHE for two years, I can attest to the fact that the documentary is very authentic. In fact, some of the people who are interviewed were my teachers in BIHE. 

From students to Nobel Peace Prize winners, this documentary uses a wide range of real people (not actors) from various religions and backgrounds. It opens with Article 26 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which states that “Everyone has the right to education. . . . and higher education shall be equally accessible to all on the basis of merit.”

The documentary continues to deliver a powerful message of not only the BIHE strength but also of its hope for the future. Filming took place in nine Iranian cities and features testimonies from a dozen current and former BIHE students, professors, and administrators, as well as several human-rights advocates.

The film features footage and photographs spanning two decades of BIHE classes, rare video from inside Tehran’s notorious Evin prison, and photographs and accounts that bring alive a series of personal stories.

One story that is particularly gripping is that of a man who speaks, with tears in his eyes, about his mother’s persecution. She would often be put in front of a firing squad to frighten her into denouncing her Baha’i faith, but she never did. Before her execution, she gave her son her wedding ring for him to give to his future wife because she knew she would not live to see that wedding.

In the documentary, BIHE graduate Shahrzad Missaghi expresses a shared resolve: “The government can crush our bodies, but they cannot crush the mind and soul.

Mojdeh Rohani, a BIHE graduate whose father was executed in 1981, says, “We can use this experience to not only just think about ourselves and what is important to us, but to look at the bigger picture, to think of people of this world as if they were our own family.

The two students capture the larger, universal message of this film. Education Under Fire is a powerful documentary that informs and moves a diverse audience around the world.

To participate in the campaign or get more information about Education Under Fire, please visit its website at http://www.educationunderfire.com/.

Help raise awareness, and screen this movie on your campus, in a college or high- school classroom, at a public library, in a community center, at an interfaith gathering or human-rights meeting, or just share it with your family. Order your free DVD at http://www.educationunderfire.com/freedvd/.