When creativity and artistic vision unite with passionate commitment to fight injustice, the result can take the world by storm!
The Education Under Fire project, which Amnesty International is proud to support, includes a documentary film Education Under Fire that that has been screened at dozens of venues around the U.S. since its Amnesty International-cosponsored debuts in New York and Los Angeles this past fall.
The film, directed by Jeff Kaufman and produced by Single Arrow Productions and made with the participation of Amnesty International USA, highlights one of the many injustices facing Iran’s Baha’i community—their systematic exclusion from the right to pursue higher education. The film recounts how, in the face of these prohibitions, the Baha’i community established an underground university called the Baha’i Institute of Higher Education (BIHE) to provide an alternative form of education, despite the fact that credentials earned at the BIHE would not be recognized in Iran.
Sadly, the Iranian authorities have also been persecuting those associated with the BIHE; seven of its faculty and staff members have been slapped with prison sentences of four and five years each. In the film, former BIHE students and faculty speak about their dedication to education and the tenacity and courage of those involved in the Institute.
Other short documentaries produced by the project are included in the series, Angels of Iran. The most recent of these called “A Voice for the Voiceless” focuses on the seven leaders of Iran’s Baha’i community, called the seven Yaran, who are currently serving twenty-year prison sentences, solely for their peaceful efforts to manage the affairs of their religious community. They had been convicted of baseless charges of “espionage for Israel,” “insulting religious sanctities” and “propaganda against the system.”
The film features powerful testimony from Roxana Saberi, an Iranian-American journalist who spent several months in Evin Prison in 2009 and shared her cell for a while with the two women Yaran—Fariba Kamalabadi and Mahvash Sabet. She movingly recounts how the two women gave her courage and support when she was feeling desperate about her situation. They also amazingly taught her lessons about forgiveness. According to Ms Saberi, Fariba and Mahvash said, “we don’t want to become like them, we forgive them and we hope God will help us show them a better way… if they had any anger they had transmuted that anger into a positive force.”
In addition to educating people about the shocking persecution of Iran’s Baha’i community, the Education Under Fire project also seeks to galvanize the public to take action. They created a Drive to 25 campaign to gather 25,000 signatures on their petition calling for the release of the BIHE educators, and an end to the persecution of the Baha’i community. At this point they need less than 1,000 signatures to meet this goal. Amnesty International urges everyone to add their name to this petition.
The project also demonstrates how strategic partnerships between artists/visionaries with Amnesty International and other organizations can unleash and inspire activism around human rights violation in Iran. Several events sponsored by Amnesty International highlighting the use of the arts to promote human rights in Iran were held in Chicago the week of April 9—including a program at Northeastern Illinois University which included a screening of Education Under Fire, and presentations by Amir, the author of the graphic novel Zahra’s Paradise and Roya Boroumand about the Abdorrahman Boroumand Foundation’s photo exhibit “Interrupted Lives” about the persecution of student activists in Iran.
Other recent events bringing attention to the persecution of Iran’s Baha’is include a series of events coordinated by United4Iran and the international Baha’i community held on April 1 to mark the fact that by that date, the seven Yaran have been held a collective 10,000 days in prison. On that date, trucks displaying a large billboard calling for freedom for the seven Yaran drove around Washington DC and London, a march with banners was held in New Delhi, India, and an exhibit was set up in Berlin. A gala screening of Education Under Fire was held at the Carter Center in Atlanta on April 25.
Please sign onto the petition today and add your voice to the thousands calling for justice for the innocent Baha’i educators.