Bahá'í Institute for Higher Education

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The Bahá'í Institute for Higher Education (BIHE), popularly known as the Bahá'í Open University, is a university in Iran designed and managed by the Bahá'í community for Iranian Bahá'ís as a Bahá'í school for those who are excluded from access to higher education in their country. Founded in 1987 and offering 17-degree programs, the BIHE offers academic programs of learning and research in the sciences, the social sciences and the arts. In 2011 there were 475 volunteer faculty that includes accredited professors from universities outside Iran who assist as researchers, teachers and consultants.

Context[edit]

Bahá'ís value education highly. By 1973 the Bahá’ís in Iran were the first to have achieved a literacy rate of 100 per cent among women under the age of 40, despite the national literacy rate of 15 per cent.[1]

After the Iranian Revolution in 1979, the new Islamic government fired Bahá'í professors from all universities and expelled Bahá'í students.[2] In 2007 the government established a new university admission system where only individuals who identified themselves with one of the four religions – Islam, Christianity, Judaism and Zoroastrianism – recognized by the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Iran, were given admission[3] though systematic expulsion of students and faculty became clear to Bahá'ís by 1983.[4]

The BIHE was established in 1987 to allow Bahá'í youth an opportunity to obtain a university-level education. The New York Times called it "an elaborate act of communal self-preservation."[5] Initially, Muslim[6] and Bahá'í teachers and professionals taught the courses primarily through correspondence;[7] more recently, BIHE also offered a number of courses online.[8]

The student population in 1998 is reported to have had 900 students with ten subjects at the Bachelor's level.[7] 2012 estimates are of 50,000 students having gone through the courses.[9]

Curriculum[edit]

BIHE offers Bachelor, Graduate and Associate degrees in the following subjects administered as five university "departments":[10]

  • Civil Engineering
  • Computer Engineering
  • Chemistry|Applied Chemistry
  • Biology & Medical Sciences
  • Psychology
  • Pharmaceutical sciences
  • Law
  • English Literature and Linguistics
  • Accounting
  • Architecture
  • Business Administration
  • Social Sciences
  • Persian Literature and Iranian Culture
  • Music
  • Plant Production Technology
  • Computer technology
  • Civil Construction

The Institute offers more than 700 courses each term, with many of them being offered online. The BIHE was the first Iranian member of the Open Courseware Consortium[11] and BIHE developed and implemented a project through them out of MIT.[12]

Graduates[edit]

BIHE graduates have gone on to other work in a number of areas academic and otherwise.

Some of the papers published by students have been in academic subjects like distance learning technologies,[13][14] materials science,[15][16] biology,[17] and computer science[12][18][19] and civil engineering.[20]

At least one of the graduates is a member of the arrested leadership in Iran among the Bahá'ís.[21]

The effectiveness of BIHE to deliver curricula has been studied, finding it to be a "social space" that enables Bahá'í students and staff to remain academically and socially engaged; to bond and share with peers and colleagues equally suffering from religious persecution; and to live up to principles such as learning, community service, and resistance in times of socio-political marginalization[22] as well surviving because of international support, community sacrifices, and individual resiliency.[23]

According to BIHE, graduates of its course work have been accepted at more than 65 different university graduate programs outside Iran.[24]

Some universities have begun to accept BIHE credit[25] while accreditation with International Association of Universities is still lacking with BIHE as well as a transcript evaluation from one of the Academic Evaluation Services.[26][27] The University of New Mexico stopped taking BIHE credit in 2010 as part of a general review and not directed specifically at BIHE.[28] Meanwhile, UCLA and Columbia have been accepting students who have studied at the BIHE.[29]

Faculty[edit]

In 2011 the 475 volunteer faculty is composed in significant part by professionals who once held teaching positions at government-run universities in Iran but lost their jobs because of affiliation with the Bahá'í Faith. Professors are responsible for the development and implementation of the university curriculum which now consists of 32-degree programs (5 associate,17 undergraduate and 10 graduate).[30]

As the online capabilities of the BIHE expand, so too does its Affiliated Global Faculty (AGF), a body of volunteer professors with doctoral degrees who work and reside outside Iran. The Affiliated Global Faculty was created in response to the emerging needs of the BIHE including increasing numbers of courses offered in English and the desire to achieve internationally accepted educational standards. Some faculty have publically listed their affiliation.[31]

Locations[edit]

Courses at the university were originally offered principally via correspondence; for specialized scientific or technical courses small groups assembled in private homes. After some time, the university was able to establish a few laboratories in privately owned commercial buildings near and in Tehran. Due to the increasing number of courses being offered online, students are now able to participate in classes via the internet.

Raids[edit]

Between 1987 and 2005 the Iranian authorities closed down the university several times[2] as part of the pattern of suppressing the Bahá'í community.[32] Between September 30 and October 3, 1998[33] members of the Iranian Government's intelligence agency, the Ministry of Information, started a massive crackdown, when officials raided over 500 Bahá'í homes, and confiscated teaching materials and arrested more than 30 faculty members.[7][34]

Most of those who were arrested were released soon afterwards, but four were given prison sentence ranging from three to 10 years. The faculty members who were arrested were asked to sign a document declaring that BIHE had ceased to exist as of September 29, and that they would no longer cooperate with it, but all refused to sign the declaration.

A second raid of BIHE educators took place on May 22, 2011. Officials from the Ministry of Intelligence entered the homes of at least 30 of the academic staff of the BIHE, seizing books, computers and personal effects. A total of 16 educators were arrested. Some of those arrested were transferred to Evin prison. The buildings used as laboratories and for academic purposes in Tehran have also been closed. The searches or arrests took place in Tehran, Zahedan, Sari, Isfahan and Shiraz.[35] According to CNN, nine of those arrested have since been released.[36]

The Iran Daily, an official government newspaper, reported that "The BIHE university was a cover for the propagation of the Baha'i faith and was used to trap citizens in the Baha'i spy network and to gather information from within the county". It stated that ""Authorities have discovered Baha'i propaganda, CDs and books in the possession of those who have been arrested."[36] Spokesman for Iran's mission to the United Nations said the raids on BIHE were because it "systematically controlled activities of cult members, and ... interfered in their private, social and economic lives." He also said the organization had the aim of "entrapping" non-Baha'is, in order to eventually create "an extremist cult movement."[37] See Political accusations against the Baha'i Faith.

Teachers and staff of the BIHE have vowed to continue the BIHE's activities.[38][39]

Developing a response[edit]

Following the 1990s raids the Canadian Association of University Teachers condemned them.[40]

Since then there has been a further expansion and diversity of objections to these raids and the attempts of the Iranian government to exclude Bahá'ís from high education. Christian Solidarity Worldwide[41] and the Union of Jewish Students[42] urged Iran to end its discriminatory educational policies of Bahá'ís. An international set of 43 academic theologians and philosophers – of Christian, Hindu, Jewish, and Muslim backgrounds – signed an open letter, published in The Daily Telegraph (UK), and reported in the Folha de S.Paulo (Brazil) condemning the recent attacks.[43] A petition in India has garnered support from members of Judicial, Executive and Legislative branches of government, academics, religious leaders, NGOs and business leaders.[44] Another in the States garnered support from 48 Deans and Senior Vice-Presidents of American medical schools.[45] The chief signatory – Dr. Philip Pizzo, Dean of Stanford University’s School of Medicine – helped collect the signatures at the annual meeting of the Association of American Medical Colleges’ Council of Medical School Deans. On March 20, the American Physical Society Committee on International Freedom of Scientists reiterated its 2010 support[46] for Bahá'í students not being denied education in requesting the arrested lectures be released.[47]

Education Under Fire[edit]

Following developments reported on October 13, 2011, by the UN Secretary General with a report on "The situation of human rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran",[48] specifically citing the raids,[49][50] Nobel Laureates Desmond Tutu and José Ramos-Horta wrote an open letter calling for the immediate release of the Bahá'í Institute for Higher Education professors and other initiatives[6] which is part of a program of action that is called Education Under Fire (EUF).

Single Arrow Productions produced a 30-minute documentary by the same title, Education Under Fire.[51] This documentary traces the Islamic Republic of Iran's three-decade-long policy of denying the members of its Bahá´í community basic human rights including the right to attend any institution of higher education. It is endorsed by Amnesty International.[52] The documentary and laureates’ letter together form part of university and community activities to address the situation. The campaign’s premiere event showing the documentary was co-hosted by faculty from Columbia University, Duke University, and Eastern Kentucky University, as well as Amnesty International and the director of the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran, on October 28, 2011.[53][54] A "successful" Kickstarter campaign associated with the documentary was completed[55] and Iran Human Rights held a podcast on the initiative in November 2011.[56]

The documentary was shown at the mid-February 2012 12th Annual Bellingham Human Rights Film Festival[57] and the 10th Annual University of San Francisco Film Festival in late March.[58]

Goals[edit]

The campaign's stated goals are:[6]

  • calling on the government of the Iranian Republic to release unconditionally and drop charges against the BIHE educators currently under arrest and facing charges related to their educational activities;
  • asks academic leaders, administrators and professors to register through any possible channels in the Iranian academic community their disagreement with and disapproval of any policy which would bar individuals from higher education based on their religious background or political persuasion, or which would remove or corrupt any established fields of study from a university curricula for religious or political reasons
  • to encourage universities to review the educational quality of the BIHE coursework for possible acceptance of its credits, so that those who have had the benefit of its programs can continue at higher levels of study, and
  • to offer available online university level curricula, through scholarships if needed, to students in Iran who would otherwise be deprived of the right to higher education or who, due to government limitation on social sciences, would not have a full array of educational options available to them in their own county.

Head administrators of Wheelock, Wheaton Colleges and the University of Massachusetts Amherst[59] as well as faculty from various Canadian[60] and Australian[61] colleges and universities have signed letters in support of the cause of the campaign which have been released to the public. Screenings of the documentary often with discussions and action agenda items for the campaign have been held or are scheduled for 2012 at a wide number of universities and colleges in the United States,[62] Canada,[63] and Italy.[64] The documentary was also shown at a public library in Shrewsbury, New Jersey,[65] and City Hall at Stratford, Ontario[66] and the Ohio Commission on Hispanic / Latino Affairs hosted an event in Columbus Ohio.[67] The American Friends Service Committee supported two screenings – one at the DePaul University Art Museum, and the other at Northeastern Illinois University's Student Union.[68] David Docherty, President of Mount Royal University recommended the documentary.[69] A Sentinel Project for Genocide Prevention contributor spoke at a screening and discussion in Toronto on the campaign and situation in Iran.[70] The Human Rights, Social Justice and Canadian Complicity with Torture – Criminology and Human Rights Symposium of St. Thomas University in March 2012 hosted a screening and discussion.[71]

The campaign has also received televised local news coverage in New York (WNBC),[72] Miami (WTVJ)[73] as well as Houston community radio (KPFT).[74]

Can you solve this?[edit]

Another response to the situation was using QR codes for the website "Can you solve this?" (can-you-solve-this.org) It is an online email campaign system to send letters about the situation to various leaders in several countries[75] was started in August 2011.[76] A related website claims it has sent over 1,700 letters[77] with coverage from the Mashable website.[78] Promoted on the website bahairights.org, the Muslim Network for Baha'i Rights, it is a project by Mideast Youth.[79]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

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  2. ^ a b Affolter, Friedrich W. (2007). "Resisting Educational Exclusion: The Bahai Institute of Higher Education in Iran". International Journal of Diaspora, Indigenous and Minority Education 1 (1): 65–77. ISSN 1559-5692. 
  3. ^ Iran Human Rights Documentation Center (2007). "A Faith Denied: The Persecution of the Baha'is of Iran" (PDF). Iran Human Rights Documentation Center. p. 50. Retrieved 2011-12-09. 
  4. ^ supra note 113, at page 259 of Nash, Geoffrey (1986). "The Persecution of the Bahá'í Community of Irán: 1979–1983". In The Universal House of Justice. The Bahá'í World – Bahá'í Era 136–140, 1979–1983. The Bahá'í World 18. The Universal House of Justice. pp. 249–337. ISBN 0-85398-234-1. 
  5. ^ Bronner, Ethan (October 29, 1998). "Iran Closes 'University' Run Covertly By the Bahais". New York Times. Retrieved 2011-12-09. 
  6. ^ a b c Tutu, Desmond; Ramos-Horta, José (September 26, 2011). "Iran's War Against Knowledge – An Open Letter to the International Academic Community". Huffington Post. Retrieved March 12, 2012. 
  7. ^ a b c Ghanea-Hercock, Nazila (2002). Human rights, the UN and the Bahá'ís in Iran. Martinus Nijhoff Publishers. pp. 147, 379. ISBN 978-90-411-1953-7. 
  8. ^ Reisz, Matthew (December 22, 2011). "Preserving Education for the Baha'i". News. Times Higher Education. Retrieved February 10, 2012. 
  9. ^ Roberts, Jacob (January 19, 2012). "Education Under Fire in Iran". The Link (The Link Publication Society Inc.). Retrieved February 8, 2012. 
  10. ^ Bahá'í International Community (1999). "The Baha'i Institute of Higher Education: a creative and peaceful response to religious persecution in Iran". Commission on Human Rights, Fifty-fifth session, Item 10 of the provisional agenda. Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights. Retrieved 2012-01-15. 
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  12. ^ a b DiBiase, David (2012). "GIS&T in the Open Educational Resources Movement". In Unwin, D.; Foote, K.; Tate, N. et al. Teaching Geographic Information Sciences and Technology. John Wiley and Sons. pp. 4 of 17. ISBN 978-0-470-74856-5. 
  13. ^ Coborn, James. "Teaching Oral English Online – Through Skype (VOIP)". Acta Didactica Norge 4 (1): 28. Retrieved January 15, 2012. 
  14. ^ Madyarov, Irshat (2008). Contradictions in a distance content-based English as a foreign language course: Activity theoretical perspective (Thesis). Department of Second Language Acquisition and Instructional Technology, University of South Florida. p. 374. Retrieved January 15, 2012. 
  15. ^ Manesh, Navid Amini (2007). Heat Transfer in Multi-layer Energetic Nanofilm on Composites Substrate (Thesis). Department of Mechanical, Materials and Aerospace Engineering in the College of Engineering and Computer Science at the University of Central Florida. p. 83. Retrieved January 15, 2012. 
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  17. ^ Kia, Saba Farbod; Elaine Åstrand; Guilhem Ibos; Suliann Ben Hamed (January–June 2011). "Readout of the intrinsic and extrinsic properties of a stimulus from un-experienced neuronal activities: Towards cognitive neuroprostheses". Journal of Physiology-Paris 105 (1–3): 115. doi:10.1016/j.jphysparis.2011.07.015. Retrieved January 15, 2012. 
  18. ^ Rouhipour, Marjan; Peter J Bentley; Mooman Shayani (2010). "Systemic Computation Using Graphics Processors". In Tempesti, Gianluca; Tyrrell, Andy; Miller, Julian. "Evolvable Systems: From Biology to Hardware: 9th International Conference, ICES 2010". Springer. pp. 121–132. ISBN 978-3-642-15322-8. Retrieved January 15, 2012. 
  19. ^ "C.V.". Penn Engineering. Babak Shirmohammadi. 2010. Retrieved January 15, 2012. 
  20. ^ Shahriari, Haleh; Warith, Mostafa; Kennedy, Kevin J. (2011). "Effect of microwave temperature, intensity and moisture content on solubilisation of organic fraction of municipal solid waste". Int. J. Environmental Technology and Management 14 (1/2/3/4): 67–83. Retrieved February 8, 2012. 
  21. ^ Vargha Taefi and Nazila Ghanea (Summer 2009). "Dissident Watch: Fariba Kamalabadi". Middle East Quarterly 16 (3): 96. Retrieved January 15, 2012. 
  22. ^ Saeedi, Nika (2006). "Resisting Educational Exclusion: The Bahá'í Institute of Higher Education". Social Sciences › Methodology of Social Sciences Papers. Mendeley Ltd. Retrieved February 8, 2012. 
  23. ^ Ghadirian, Nayyer (2009). An exploratory study examining the factors associated with the survival of underground education in an oppressive environment (Thesis). Concordia University. p. 86. Retrieved February 8, 2012. 
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  25. ^
    • In Canada the University of British Columbia, Simon Fraser University, the University of Manitoba, Queen’s University, the University of Ottawa, McGill University and Concordia University have accepted BIHE graduates to Master’s and PhD degree programs. K.van den Hoonaard, Deborah; Pierre-Yves Mocquais, Niky Kamran, Redwan Moqbel, Claire Lapointe, David R. Smith, Will C. van den Hoonaard, Lisa Dufraimont, Lyse Langlois, Albert M. Berghuis, W. Andy Knight & Michael Powe. "Iran Jails Bahá’í Educators, Calling Their Canadian Degrees Illegal". CAUT ACPPU Bulletin. Retrieved April 13, 2012. 
    • BIHE claims its graduates have been accepted at more than 65 different university graduate programs across the USA (23), UK (21), Canada (7), France (3), India (3), Australia (2), Norway, Finland, Netherlands, Germany, and New Zealand outside of Iran. "BIHE at a Glance". BIHE.org. 2006. Retrieved April 18, 2012. 
  26. ^ Darling, John (January 14, 2012). "Forum at SOU to support Baha'i education in Iran". Ashland Daily Tidings. Retrieved January 15, 2012. 
  27. ^ Darling, John (January 14, 2012). "Forum at SOU to support Baha'i education in Iran". Ashlad Daily Tidings. Retrieved February 8, 2012. 
  28. ^ Morris, Megan (February 29, 2012). "Students risk torture, jail to pursue education". New Mexico Daily Lobo. Retrieved March 11, 2012. 
  29. ^ Johnson, Chelsea (March 9, 2012). "Education Under Fire". The Gustavian Weekly. Retrieved March 11, 2012. 
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  31. ^
  32. ^ Leith, John Barnabas (2007). "A More Constructive Encounter: A Bahá'í View of Religion and Human Rights". In Ghanea-Hercock, Nazila; Stephens, Alan; Walden, Raphael. Does God believe in human rights?: essays on religion and human rights. Martinus Nijhoff Publishers. p. 134. ISBN 978-90-04-15254-0. 
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  36. ^ a b Mobasherat, Mitra; Sterling, Joe (June 3, 2011). "For Baha'i educators, a lesson in power from Iran". CNN.com. Retrieved 2011-12-09. 
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  38. ^ Sharma, Yojana (May 25, 2011). "IRAN: University to continue despite raids, arrests". University World News. Retrieved 2011-12-13. 
  39. ^ "Total of 30 Years in Prison for BIHE Educators". HRANA News Agency (Human Rights Activists News Agency). October 17, 2011. Retrieved 2011-12-13. 
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  41. ^ "Iran: Raids on homes linked to Baha’i higher education initiative" (Press release). Christian Solidarity Worldwide. January 6, 2011. Retrieved January 15, 2012. 
  42. ^ Dysch, Marcus (August 17, 2011). "Jewish groups urge release of Baha'i academics in Iran". Jewish Chronicle Online. Retrieved March 11, 2012. 
  43. ^ "Philosophers and theologians worldwide condemn Iran's attack on Baha'i educators". Bahá'í World News Service (Bahá'í International Community). October 10, 2011. Retrieved March 11, 2011. 
  44. ^ "Petition to the Iranian Government for Immediate Release of the staff and faculty of the Baha'i Institute of Higher Education" (Press release). Bahá'ís of India. May 2011. Retrieved February 15, 2012. 
  45. ^ Baha'i World News Service (September 12, 2011). "Heads of medical schools urge Iran to release imprisoned Baha'i educators". Payvand Iran News ... Retrieved March 11, 2012. 
  46. ^ Mirkin, Noemi, Chair; Committee on International Freedom of Scientists of the American Physical Society (May 28, 2010). "letter to Dr. Hamid Reza Haji Babaie, Minister of Education". Persecution of the Bahá'ís in Iran. National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha'is of the United States. Retrieved March 21, 2012. 
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  48. ^ "UN Secretary General "deeply troubled" by developments in Iran". Baha'i World News Agency (Baha'i International Community). October 13, 2011. Retrieved 2011-12-13. 
  49. ^ "The situation of human rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran". "Promotion and protection of human rights: human rights situations and reports of special rapporteurs and representatives". United Nations General Assembly. September 15, 2011. p. 10. Retrieved 2011-12-13. 
  50. ^ Blomfield, Adrian (October 10, 2011). "Religious academics denounce persecution against Iran's Baha'i minority". The Telegraph. Retrieved 2011-12-09. ""Philosophers, theologians and scholars of religion from universities across the world denounce persecution against Iran's Baha'i the campaign of official persecution against Iran's Baha'i minority specifically, the arrests of the Baha'i Institute for Higher Education professors"." 
  51. ^ BIHE (2011). Education Under Fire (video). international: Single Arrow Productions. 
  52. ^ Auerbach, Elise (2012). "Dear Amnesty International members and activists". Amnesty International USA. Retrieved February 8, 2012. 
  53. ^ "Persecution of Baha'is in Iran is Focus of Documentary Film With Screenings in New York, Los Angeles and Boston by Amnesty International USA". Amnesty International News (Amnesty International USA). October 20, 2011. Retrieved January 15, 2012. 
  54. ^ Saberi, Roxana (October 13, 2011). "Oct 28 in NY: Premiere of Documentary Co-Sponosred by Amnesty International". This is the official website of Roxana Saberi (Roxana Saberi). Retrieved March 11, 2012. 
  55. ^ Kaufman, Jeff (2011). "Education Under Fire; A Documentary project in Los Angeles, CA by Jeff Kaufman". Retrieved March 11, 2012. 
  56. ^ "Podcast 39: “Education Under Fire”". [[1]]. [39]. November 21, 2011. 9:21 minutes in. International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran. http://www.iranhumanrights.org/category/podcast/.
  57. ^ "12th Annual Bellingham Human Rights Film Festival Program". Bellingham Human Rights Film Festival. January 13, 2012. Retrieved March 11, 2012. 
  58. ^ "10th Annual USF Human Rights Film Festival (Under Saturday – March 31)". Festival Program. University of San Francisco;; College of Letters and Science. Retrieved March 26, 2012. 
  59. ^ Jackie Jenkins-Scott; Keith Motley; Ronald A. Crutcher (September 24, 2011). "Letter from Wheelock, U. of Mass., & Wheeton". Education Under Fire. Retrieved February 10, 2012. 
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  61. ^ Rowbotham, Jill (October 19, 2011). "Call for Iran to release Baha'i academics". The Australian. Retrieved March 11, 2012. 
  62. ^
  63. ^
  64. ^ University of Malta, Italy – Akhtarkhavari, Samra (December 21, 2011). "Education under attack". Insite– The Student Media Organisation (Insite – the Student Media Organisation.). Retrieved January 15, 2012. 
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  68. ^ "Exploring the Use of the Arts to Promote Human Rights in Iran". American Friends Service Committee. April 9, 2012. 
  69. ^ Docherty, David (April 11, 2012). "My visit to Kiwiland". President's blog. Mount Royal University. Retrieved April 12, 2012. 
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  71. ^ "Human Rights, Social Justice and Canadian Complicity with Torture – Criminology and Human Rights Symposium March 21 and 22" (Press release). Endowed Chair in Criminology, Department of Criminology and Criminal Justice, and the Atlantic Human Rights Centre and the Research Office. March 21, 2012. Retrieved April 13, 2012. 
  72. ^ "David Hoffman – Education Under Fire". NY Nightly News. NBC. WNBC. http://vimeo.com/33426003.
  73. ^ "David Hoffman – Education Under Fire". NBC Miami. NBC. WTVJ. http://vimeo.com/33425937.
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  78. ^ Fox, Zoe (August 23, 2011). "QR Code Campaign Fights for Education Equality in Iran". bahairights.org. Retrieved March 13, 2012. 
  79. ^ "statement". Bahairights.org. Retrieved March 13, 2012. 

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]