A group of Iranian Christians previously imprisoned for their faith have released a statement protesting against the denial of the right to education to Farsi-speaking Christians in Iran.
The statement was written in Farsi (Persian), the national language of Iran, and published on 24 January to coincide with the International Day of Education.
Farsi-speaking Christian children in Iran who refuse to take Islamic Studies classes have been barred from school. Whilst other non-Muslim children are exempt from studying for exams in Islamic Studies, children of converts from Islam to Christianity are not recognised as Christians by the authorities and do not satisfy the criteria for exemption.
Unlike the historic Armenian- and Assyrian-speaking Christian communities, Farsi-speaking Christians are converts from Islam, that is, apostates according to Islamic law. Generally, the children of apostates are deemed by Islamic law to be Muslim from birth, just as their parents were born Muslims. So the children of Farsi-speaking Christians are officially considered to be Muslims who must attend Islamic Studies classes at school.
The signatories, whose sentences totalled more than 50 years between them, included Mary Mohammadi, Amin Afshar-Naderi, Manizheh Bagheri, Mostafa Bordbar, Shapoor Jozi, Payam Kharaman, Sam Khosravi, Parastou Zariftash, Mohsen Aliabady Ravari, Farshid Fathi, Kavian Fallah-Mohammadi, Maryam Fallahi, Reza (Davoud) Nejat Sabet, and Sahab Fazli, mother of current prisoner Nasser Navard Gol-Tapeh.
Mary Mohammadi was expelled from Azad University, without explanation, on the eve of her English-language exams in December 2019.
The signatories of the statement describe Farsi-speaking Christians as an “unrecognised” minority that faces “a sea of persecution and oppression”, of which the denial of education is merely one aspect.
They emphasise that Iran’s constitution guarantees citizens the right to education, as does the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, of which Iran is a signatory.
The statement declares, “Unfortunately, the Islamic Republic of Iran, in violation of its international obligations and constitution, expels us Farsi-speaking Christians and our children from school and university… The dreams we nurtured in our hearts and minds, and the plans we had for our jobs and our future, disappear like a cloud overhead.”
The statement concludes with a call for all Iranians to protect the right of education “not only for Christians, but for people of all beliefs, both present and future generations”.