Documentary explains education oppression in Iran

February 19th, 2015

Interested in gaining a better understanding of the value of education in another country?


On Thursday, Feb. 26, the Chagrin Falls Public Library will screen the documentary “To Light a Candle: Education is not a Crime” at 6:45 p.m. A panel discussion with a former student and professor of the Bahá’í Institute for Higher Education will take place after the film.


“To Light a Candle” is a documentary by the journalist Maziar Bahari, who talks about the oppression of Bahá’ís in Iran. The documentary shares stories of individuals associated with the shutdown of Bahá’í Institute for Higher Education.


The documentary made its world premiere in May 2014 at Stanford University.


Maziar Bahari, an Iranian-Canadian journalist and filmmaker, graduated with a bachelor’s in communications from Concordia University in Montreal in 1993. He has produced a number of documentaries and news reports for broadcasters around the world including the BBC, Discovery and NHK. Bahari has been a jury member for a number of international film festivals. In September 2009, he was nominated for the Prince of Asturias Award for Concord.


The Bahá’í Institute for Higher Education (BIHE), also known as the Bahá’í Open University, is a university in Iran designed and managed by the Bahá’í community for Iranian Bahá’ís.


The documentary shares that Iranian Bahá’ís are not allowed to continue higher education in Iran, mainly because of their religious identity. BIHE was founded in 1987 and is currently offering 17 programs, allowing Bahá’ís to obtain a degree in engineering, music and law to name a few.


Maziar Bahari

The Bahá’í Faith is a monotheistic religion that emphasizes the spiritual unity of all humankind. It was started in the 19th century in Iran by the prophet “Baha’u’llah.” The religion’s main three core principles are: the unity of God, meaning there is only one God who is the source of all creation; the unity of religion, stating that all major religions have the same spiritual source and come from the same God; and the unity of humanity, meaning that all humans have been created equal and that diversity of race and culture are seen as worthy of appreciation and acceptance.


“To Light a Candle” shows Bahá’ís have been forbidden from attending or teaching at universities in Iran since the 1979 Islamic Revolution. Classes are held at people’s houses in secret, with the threat of arrest being a part of everyday life.


The documentary exposes the brutality of Iran’s extreme religious leaders, who are unwilling to accept change, be it religious belief or the quest for knowledge.


“That sounds like something I would watch just to see what they say about the issue,” freshman Emily Mullen said regarding the documentary. “I do not think any part of someone’s identity should ban them from any education or basic rights. For me, it’s crazy and also strange that religious beliefs ban you from education in some places, mainly because I grew up Catholic and I was never banned from basic rights or education.”


Sophomore Shanna Etchison added, “I think that everyone has a right to learn about every religion and culture or background difference. I don’t think anything like that should be banned. All basic rights should be met, and religious and government entities should help to fulfill those needs. Education is essential. I would definitely be interested in viewing the film.”


Senior Dina Hanna said, “I do not think that anyone should be denied an education for any reason, whether it is background, ethnicity, or religion. That is absolutely a shame.”


“To Light a Candle” does not only expose the brutality and oppression in Iran, but it also highlights the importance of education.


Editor’s Note: Information from and Stanford University was used in this article.