Iran’s ethnolinguistic minorities continue to face forced assimilation

Shima Silavi
Shima Silavi - Special to Al Arabiya English
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“Inclusive and quality education for all” is one of the goals of UN Education 2030 Agenda, which cannot be achieved unless all learners are given the foundation they need to thrive.

UNESCO concentrates on the necessity of the mother tongue in the education and direct connection between education in mother tongue and sustainable development.

However, for millions of ethnolinguistic minority communities in Iran education in their mother tongue and having a multilingual education system is a dream.

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Yesterday, concurrent with the national Student Day in Iran, two Ahwazi Arab girls were punished and humiliated by their teacher, “Mrs. Shohtari” for speaking Arabic together in the class. The teacher forced them to write: “We refrain from speaking Arabic in the classroom” 100 time as punishment.

This is not the first incident of racist reactions toward minorities and forced assimilation in Iranian schools but thanks to social media these incidents are being reported with much speed. And the role and the power of civil movements in reflecting and reporting such cases is becoming more evident.

Speaking and learning the languages and even wearing traditional clothes by ethnolinguistic minorities are guaranteed according the Iranian constitution, making the teacher's reaction and her punishment of the students illegal by law.

The families of the two students complained to the city council and demanded termination of the teacher from her position as this was not the first time this individual has punished the students for speaking Arabic in the class.

After the news went viral however, the teacher apologized. But a simple apology will not solve this problem nor will it guarantee that this incident will not occur again by other educators in minority populated areas in Iran.

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Haj Babaie, the former minister of education, stated that 70 percent of student in Iran are bilingual and Persian is not considered their mother tongue.

According to official statistics the number of students who drop out of schools in minority areas is much higher than other areas and the reason are mainly mistreatment, discrimination and humiliations of students belonging to ethno-linguistics minorities due to the monolingual education system in Islamic Republic of Iran.

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