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Last Updated: Monday, 24 April 2006, 16:22 GMT 17:22 UK
Iranian diaspora: Soroosh Khavari
Soroosh Khavari
Name: Soroosh Khavari
Age: 24
Lives: Glasgow, Scotland
Works: Dentist

My family fled Iran during the revolution because they follow the Bahai religion, whose followers suffer much persecution in Iran.

I was only six months old when we left.

The Islamic fundamentalists saw the Bahai community as a threat to Islam because it was becoming popular. The Bahai were denied many rights.

My parents' people were denied education beyond a certain year and my father, a doctor, was told by his hospital that he would have to renounce his religion to keep his job. He was not prepared to do that.

So my parents escaped. They hired two men on motorbikes to take them over the border into Pakistan. My father held me - still only a baby - and my mother held my sister.

They had one little bag, everything else they left behind. If they had been stopped they would have been killed.

After they crossed the border they embarked on a long journey which eventually ended in Britain. Fortunately, my grandparents lived here and are relatively well off so they had the funds to look after us.

But they had also left much behind. My grandmother used to own a large furniture store in Tehran. Ironically, it is now an Islamic school for children.

When I was younger I didn't care much about my Iranian background - I felt like everyone else. But now I am older I feel sad I cannot experience the country of my birth.

I have been tempted to go back to Iran and was thinking of backpacking around it last year, but my mother feared I would be pressed into military service.

My parents instilled Iranian culture in me but it was filtered through the Bahai culture. My parents feel their faith, rather than their nationality, is important.

One of the youngest of the world's major religions
Founded by Baha'u'llah in Iran in the 19th century
About five million followers in 200 countries, 6,000 in the UK
Based on the unity of God, of all religions and of humanity
No clergy - leaders elected
Believes humans have a soul which will last forever
One of holiest sites is Shrine of the Bab in Haifa, Israel (above)

Although I read news on Iran with a little more interest my friends do not ask me specifically for an opinion on the country.

Most of my mates are Scottish and don't see me as the token "man from Iran". They grew up with me.

Before the election there last year many family and friends thought Iran was changing for the better and more Bahais were going back to visit family and friends. But since the election things seem to have regressed.

I would like Iran to be a free country where people aren't chained by religion and are more included on the world stage.

When people think of Iran they just see the women in veils and it's such a shame. They just see this aggressive image of people burning flags.

It's a beautiful culture and has given so much to the world. I hope it becomes freer for young people and more economically stable.

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