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ISSUE 121 VOL 16 PUBLISHED 4/11/2008

Support vocalized

By Monica Southworth
Staff Writer

Friday, April 11, 2008

At last week's student senate meeting, a resolution voicing support of Iranian Baha'i Students was passed. The resolution was a proclamation of support in protest against the Iranian government denying access to higher education for Baha'i students.

"A huge part of why I wanted to bring this to senate is because of the two-year theme at St. Olaf," said Kildahl senator Morgan Harden '11. "The theme of Global Citizenship fits with this issue. Showing that we support them and disapprove of the treatment they're receiving from their government is how we're showing our global citizenship." Two Oles, Alicia Johnson '09 and Khashi Shahbazi '11, are passionate about this issue and initiated the resolution. The resolution idea originated from the Baha'i national website. On the website, there is a list of events that people can do to raise awareness of issues, one of these options was asking student and faculty organizations to pass proposals.

Johnson and Shahbazi approached Harden with the resolution and she presented it at the senate meeting. The resolution was approved and passed at last week's senate meeting.

Baha'i was established in the 19th century in present-day Iran and emphasizes the unity of God, religion and mankind. "The earth is but one country, and mankind its citizens," Baha'i founder Bahá'u'lláh said. The Baha'i students on campus wanted to bring awareness to the current situation in Iran. When Iranian students apply for higher education, they have to declare their religious affiliation. The four religions accepted by the government are Christian, Islam, Judaism, and Zoroastrianism.

Under pressure from the United Nations, Iran removed the declaration of religion and began to admit all students. However, the documentary shows the Iranian government's response with a government policy instructing universities to expel students if they are found to be Baha'i.

"Those wanting to become 'global citizens' really need to look into this. It's a serious issue that people don't know about," Harden said. Harden highlighted the fact that St. Olaf is an institute of higher education, and would never reject an applicant because of their religious affiliation. Harden encourages St. Olaf students to become more aware of the issue and of the things they can do.

The St. Olaf Baha'i Club meets weekly in at 8:30 p.m. in Kildahl 224 to study Baha'i. The organization has been around for three years. This year, the group has chosen to focus on raising awareness about the denial of higher education of Baha'i youth in Iran. Johnson and Shahbazi said that they host activities to spread the benefits of the Baha'i message to those interested. The events are usually in the form of weekly "study circles."

The St. Olaf Baha'i Club has hosted a letter writing campaign with MIRA. There were about 60 students who wrote letters of protest about the treatment of Baha'i students in Iran.

"The next step is to explore as many receptive avenues as possible in which to present our documentary and any other information about this issue along with raising active support, especially in the form of letters from faculty, students, and the college administration," Shahbazi said.

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