Rainn Wilson did a college tour, not for the sake of comedy, but for that of human rights. Along with other panelists from Amnesty International, Education Under Fire, and the Bahá’í faith,Wilson spoke to a packed auditorium about a serious topic: the religious persecution of over 300,000 Iranian members of the Bahá’í faith.
The history of Bahá’í persecution dates back to the group’s inception. However recent government-sanctified systemic disenfranchisement (or as it’s called in polite circles, the passing of discriminating laws that bar Iranians identifying as Bahá’í from basic human rights like public services and education) has escalated to the point of attempts to shutter the underground university, Bahá’í Institute for Higher Education, and mass arrests of BIHE professors.
Many teachers are serving 4-5 year prison sentences from their arrest in May, 2011.
But why is the funnyman on a college campus for something so grave? “My family is Bahá’í. Had our family been living in Iran, my 7-year-old son would not be allowed go to school.”Wilsonhas appeared in Baha’i conferences before, but it was the events in May that helped organize these groups together. Amnesty International had been trackingIran’s human rights violations since the overthrow of the Shah during the 1970′s. Another group produced its namesake documentary, Education Under Fire, was born from the reactions of volunteers to keep the secret school operating and to spread the news of the persecution. The team spoke at several local Boston colleges like Boston University,Wheelock College, Harvard, and Tufts.
Director Jeff Kaufman, actor Rainn Wilson, BIHL graduate Mojdeh Rohani , and Northeast Regional Director of Amnesty International Joshua Rubenstein .
The documentary screening and subsequent talk was intended to be a call to action.Wilsontold the audience, “Go and ask your schools to accept BIHE credits or help teach an online class.” Flyers given to attendees listed over a dozen ways potential activists could help their cause. But perhaps the best testimony came from a BIHE graduate, Mojdeh Rohani, now a graduate of BU’sSchoolofSocial Work.
“I still love my country. But when I’ve been asked to go and help them with disasters they find out I’m a Bahá’í, and I am rejected immediately. I have not been able to go back.”
The panel disbanded, and Wilson was whisked off towards the next stop of his tour, the airport.
To find out more about Education Under Fire, check out their website.
I hope people can respond to this! Thank you, Esther