CSU East Bay professors educate Iranian students banned from higher learning

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A Cal State East Bay professor is bringing the classroom to students who are banned from getting a higher education in Iran because of their religion.

Farhad Sabetan is part of a network of teachers and students who have been forced to go underground.
During the summer, the professors teach an economics class at Cal State East Bay.

"I can contribute to the progress of knowledge. When I teach economics, I feel like I'm helping my students make better choices in life," says Professor Sabetan.

He says in his home country— Iran, the government bans people of a minority religion called Baha'i from higher education.

Students cannot attend universities and professors caught teaching them are imprisoned.

"Rather than raising arms or protesting against the government in Iran, we decided we needed to do something ourselves," said Sabetan.

He and other professors around the world are bringing the classroom into the living rooms and basements of homes in Iran.
"Education is the most fundamental and pivotal aspect of our society," said the professor.

While teachers are gathering with students in Iran, others such as Sabetan are teaching via the Internet.
They are part of the Baha'i Institute of Higher Education or BIHE which started in 1987.

"It grew little by little and it actually worked," said Sabetan who says homes have been raided and teaching tools confiscated.

But the Baha'i community refused to stop.

"The Iran government is taking away people's future," said Niknaz Aftahi who is a graduate of BIHE.

She is now an architect in Berkeley. She says she received her undergraduate degree with BIHE.

She attended secret classes in Tehran that eventually helped her get into UC Berkeley's graduate school.
Now, she is also teaching a secret class online to students in Iran.

"It's such a big violation of human rights and the world has to speak up," said the 31-year-old.
Professor Sabetan calls the movement constructive resilience.

"Learning in Iran is a crime and it is not. Learning could never be a crime." said Sabetan.

Professors with BIHE volunteer their time. As for tuition, students pay what they can.