Baha’i group accuses Iran of discrimination

United Nations - Iranian universities expelled almost 70 students after discovering they were of the Baha’i faith and the country’s government is “turning a blind eye,” the Baha’i International Community said on Wednesday.

Iran denied the accusation as “baseless information.” The Baha’i faith, an offshoot of Islam, originated in Iran 150 years ago. It claims 5 million members worldwide, including an estimated 300,000 to 350,000 in Iran, where it is considered heresy by the country’s religious leaders.

The community said Baha’i had been banned from universities in Iran for the past 25 years but that some 178 Baha’i students were admitted to various campuses last year after Tehran removed religious identification from entrance exam papers. Yet as universities became aware of the students’ faith, they were being expelled, Diane Ala’i, the Baha’i International Community’s representative to the United Nations in Geneva said in a statement.

A spokesman for Iran’s mission to the United Nations said the charges were wrong. “No one in Iran because of their religion has been expelled from studying,” said the spokesman, who asked his name not be used.

Baha’is say hundreds of their faith have been jailed and executed since the Iran’s Islamic Revolution in 1979. The government denies it has detained or executed people for their faith.