The world-wide ‘Education is not a Crime’ campaign to draw attention to the plight of Bahá’í students in Iran who are excluded from third level education was launched in Ennis on Friday in the Civic Rooms.
Among those in attendance were of Mr. Pat Breen, Chairman of the Oireachtas Committee on Foreign Affairs and Trade & Clare T.D., The Mayor of Ennis, Cllr. Johnny Flynn and Cllr. Mary Howard.
The Mayor, Cllr. Johnny Flynn, spoke of the importance of the campaign for educational freedom for the Baha’is in the country of the religion’s origins. He recounted the history of Ennis which had seen Ennis Friary as a great centre of learning in the British Isles and spoke of the Brehon Laws which gave such importance to learning and particularly to the rights and freedoms of women. The Mayor also noted the large number of youth present at the event in the Civic Rooms and thanked them for their interest and help in this campaign.
After the lighting of a symbolic candle, Elizabeth Afolter, harpist, played a piece by Turlough O’Carolan and the film ‘To Light a Candle’, made by noted journalist Maziar Bahari,who is not a Bahá’í, was screened.
The documentary outlined the history of the persecution of the Baha’is in Iran and focussed on the attempts they are making to provide third level education for Baha’is with the help of educators both within and outside Iran. Thirteen of the teachers at the Baha’i Institute of Higher Education are presently in prison in Iran. Many present in the Civic Rooms signed petitions to the Iranian Ambassador to Ireland calling for the Iranian Government to release the imprisoned Baha’i educators and to promote the rights to education for all citizens of Iran without any form of discrimination.
Deputy Breen’s recounting of his recent visit to the Turkish/Syrian border and his meeting with a young orphaned boy whose family were killed as they were fleeing attacks in Iraq brought home to those present the dangers faced daily by so much of the population of the world and the importance of “each and every one of us taking a strong stand in the peaceful defence of the many who are denied their rights and who rely on our constant vigilance and efforts to improve their situation.”