Discrimination surfaces in ‘To light a candle’

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St. Cloud State University’s Mass Communications Department will be hosting a showing of the documentary “To light a candle” next week. The documentary is by Maziar Bahari, who also fronts the “Education is Not a Crime” campaign.

Since the Iranian Islamic Revolution of 1979, a specific population of Iranian citizens have been discriminated against in a highly systematic way. The Baha’i community of Iran has been persecuted against since the beginning of the revolution in many different ways, one of which being the banning of all Baha’i citizens from teaching and attending any universities in the country of Iran.

The Baha’i community, though enduring some of the harshest systematic discrimination in history, still educates via an underground university, the Baha’i Institute of Higher Education (BIHE).

BIHE gives Baha’i citizens that want to learn and educate themselves the opportunity to do so through a method that has become more and more prevalent in the realm of education, online education.

The Baha’i Institute of Higher Education offers education through living rooms and webcams with professors teaching from all over the world. “To light a candle” documents the hardships that many of the Baha’i community have endured and shows their peaceful resistance to the Islamic regime in Iran by continuing the educational institution.

“Most young Iranians today have Baha’i friends, despite the fact the government continues to harass them and portray them in the same negative light. For me, this is one of the reasons I wanted to make this documentary. The Baha’is are a barometer for what’s going on in Iran,” Bahari said.

Reactions to the film have generally been unanimous according to members of the campaign. The “Education is Not a Crime” campaign has been growing with each screening.

“People are generally very moved by the film. A lot of the time there are people who get to see ‘To light a candle’ that are not members of the Baha’i community, who aren’t particularly aware of the details of some of what goes on in Iran in terms of human rights abuses, and are shocked by the fact that a government does keep a whole religious minority out of universities simply because of their beliefs,” Saleem Vaillancourt said, an active member of the “Education is not a crime” campaign.

“In a number of cases, people who have academic qualifications and expertise have offered their time to the Baha’i Institute of Higher Education to help teach the students there. Many have offered help with the campaign also, whether it’s hosting another screening somewhere else or performing it at a live event somewhere else,” Vaillancourt said.

The growing support is a start to the fixing the problems. With showings and panel discussions taking place all over the world, many people are not only helping the campaign by themselves, but spreading the word to others as well.

Vaillancourt said the most effective way is following and supporting the campaign through Facebook, and speaking to peers on the subject and exposing them to the reality of the situation.

Though the efforts of the campaign have been substantial, for many on the campaign this is only the beginning to a long road ahead towards equality.

“These sorts of international events, which focus on some of the key themes the documentary raises, are not only instrumental in drawing attention to the hardships the Baha’i have had to endure over many decades in Iran, they incite positive change. While Baha’is continue to face injustice, and as long as Iranian authorities treat them as second-class citizens, much remains to be done,” Vaillancourt said.

The film will be shown in the Atwood little theatre on Wednesday, April 8 from 5:00 p.m. to 6:30 p.m.