Bahai News -- The Idaho Statesman - Degree means freedom for graduate

Degree means freedom for graduate

Had Borah grad stayed in Iran, college was out

Two years ago, Samir Keshavarz Rahbar and his family immigrated to the United States from Iran — so that when Keshavarz Rahbar graduated from high school, as he did from Borah on Friday night, he could go to college. PIctured with him is his family — brother, Sahand, 8; mother, Soheila Eghbali, and father, Ardeshir Keshavarz Rahbar.
Bill Roberts
The Idaho Statesman

Samir Keshavarz Rahbar graduated from Borah High School on Friday and plans to attend Oregon State University in the fall as an electronics engineer major.

On the surface, Keshavarz Rahbar´s post-high school plans seem no different from those of millions of other high school graduates.

Except for one thing: Had Keshavarz Rahbar stayed in his native country of Iran and not come to the United States two years ago, there would have been no college for him.

The reason: Keshavarz Rahbar is a practitioner of the Baha´i faith, which teaches that all of humanity is a single race and that the goal is to work toward societal unification. Baha´is are denied full access to education and even employment in the Muslim-controlled Iran.

“I would have no future in Iran,” said Keshavarz Rahbar, 18. “I would have a high school diploma and then go look for a low-level job.”

At Friday´s graduation, Christopher McCurdy reminded students that leaving high school isn´t an end. It is, he said quoting Winston Churchill, only the “end of the beginning.”

Students must now expand their vision, he said. “Now we have to think about the world outside of our senior hall,” he said.

Samir´s parents, Soheila Eghbali and Ardeshir Keshavarz Rahbar, were determined their children would have a shot at higher education. And so for two decades, they sought a passport that would allow them to leave Iran legally.

Two years ago, they got permission.

Keshavarz Rahbar´s parents knew well what it was like to have their future foreclosed on them because of their faith.

Both were attending college in Iran when the Shah was overthrown and replaced by the Ruhollah Khomeini, a conservative Muslim leader who in 1979 fused the Muslim religion and politics in Iran.

Because Keshavarz Rahbar´s parents were Baha´i, they were thrown out of college, where she was a mechanical engineer major and he was studying film direction.

The Iranian government gave them a chance to stay in college if they would publicly renounce their faith. They refused.

But Eghbali held onto the written offer from the Iranian government for 20 years and it figured prominently in them being allowed to come to the United States as political refugees.

Now, Keshavarz Rahbar and his family say they love and miss their country. But they are also happy for their son.

“Education is very important,” said Keshavarz Rahbar´s father.

And his mother, wiping away tears as she thinks about her son getting an opportunity that was denied her for two decades, is happy for both her son and herself.

For while Keshavarz Rahbar gets ready to attend OSU — with $32,000 in scholarships — she is also attending college for the first time since she was booted out by the Iranian government. She is a mechanical engineering major at Boise State University.

“I am getting back to my degree,” she said.

©Copyright 2003, The Idaho Statesman (ID, USA)

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