Education Under Fire: A Moment for Reflection
May 22, 2012 marks the first anniversary of the most recent attack on the Baha’i Institute for Higher Education and the imprisonment of innocent educators and administrators now serving 4 and 5 year sentences.
The Iranian government’s actions evoked a collective response that has spanned the planet. It’s staggering to truly grasp the extent of our efforts so far – the dozens of countries involved; the hundreds of screenings; the thousands of participants; the conversations ranging in the tens of thousands. We have to continually ask ourselves – what is this experience? What levels of understanding and meaning have we reached? What insights can we glean? We must ponder these things because this campaign is at its core a dialectic, a conversation; it is a conversation built in stillness, and in action. It is constructed in moments of silent reflection, and fervid connection. It is evolving. It is striving to learn. It loves change.
And among the lessons learned thus far, persistence, dedication, and courage all come to mind. But underlying all of these, it is love that has defined the 2011–2012 Education Under Fire experience. Stepping into the daily lives of individuals, working, speaking, eating alongside new contacts, which soon became new friends, was the foundation upon which this cause was advanced this past year. These developments that took place did not occur in a vacuum; without a doubt, they resulted from the sacrifices and efforts, and precisely this same love, which individuals had exerted in the months and years leading up to Education Under Fire.
The histories of oppression and freedom that weave so palpably through the very fiber of many cities across the globe, particularly at institutions of higher education, themselves a contested site of citizenship in the not-so-distant past, became the very domain of engagement and activism for the rights of students in Iran. More than anything, the EUF team was awed by the depth of understanding, committed love, and sincere dedication which impelled hundreds of students, professors, and administrators to themselves take up this cause as their own. Many of us witnessed firsthand how deans of prestigious departments, who after hearing of the situation and resilience of the BIHE, would respond not simply as sympathetic bystanders, but rather as connected educators and human beings – making such assaults on higher education a very personal attack on their own humanity and professions. We witnessed the response of students, particularly those at the historically black colleges, fervidly arise to serve the needs of the BIHE, to raise awareness among their compatriots and to decry the events taking place in Iran.
From social media to classroom presentations, from the inside of the offices of deans and professors to the intimate setting of someone’s living room, Baha’i Centers, the Carter Center and everywhere in between, there emerged arenas of action within which the cause of the BIHE and its expression of constructive resilience was loudly raised. From heart to heart and classroom to classroom, all those involved witnessed a level of cohesion in their efforts that will no doubt resound far into the future and spur on even greater levels of support for educational access for all in Iran in the coming phase of the Education Under Fire campaign. It’s truly been an honor to work with you in this way – and we are now poised to truly turn “stumbling blocks” into “stepping stones.”
Stay in touch. In short order, more will come. But while we plan, visit www.educationunderfire.com/take-action and take a first step.
Donna Hakimian, Blair Johnson, Tim Wood, Geoffrey Tyson