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July 15, 2013 | by  | in News |
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Baha’i-nd Bars

An Iranian student is being held prisoner after participating in a Victoria-University-affiliated competition.

Aziz Samandari has been charged by the Iranian Government with, among other things, ‘communicating with foreigners’ after his participation in the Global Enterprise Experience (GEE) in 2010. The GEE challenges teams to devise a business concept proposal that meets one of the UN’s Millennium Development Goals.

Samandari was arrested last year and sentenced to five years in Tehran’s Raja’i Shahr prison after a trial which lasted ten minutes. Media have reported he is facing severe malnutrition, and is held with two or three other people in a cell measuring two by three metres.

Mr Samandari received the UNESCO Supreme Commitment Award in absentia in Parliament last month.

“The Supreme Commitment Award is to recognise the exceptional sacrifice he is making to pursue higher education and global communication,” GEE founder and Wellington resident Deb Gilbertson said.

“The Global Enterprise Experience competition means a lot to students worldwide and for some participation can even be risky.

“In Aziz’u’llah’s case he has been imprisoned for the very things that we are celebrating in this contest—getting an education and working in partnership across cultures.”

The laws under which Samandari is imprisoned apply only to those of Baha’i faith. Members of this religion are not recognised under Iranian law and face systematic persecution, including a ban on attending public universities. In 1992, Samandari’s father was executed under these same laws.

“We recognise [members of the Baha’i faith] as humans but do not recognise their beliefs as they are 100 per cent anti-Islam. It is just like how Singapore does not recognise gays,” the Iranian Embassy’s public-relations officer has been quoted as saying.

Victoria University did not comment directly on Samandari’s imprisonment.

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