The first time we tried to leave Iran was not a success. We paid people smugglers to take us to Turkey. They divided us into two groups and said they would be moving us three days apart. In the first group was my mum, 3 sisters, my uncle and a friend. In the second group was my father, my husband, my son and me. But after three days, the smugglers didn’t come to pick up the second group. We were so worried.
Life as a Bahá'í in Iran is very difficult. After the Islamic revolution, every Bahá'í working for the government got sacked. Now, we don’t have many basic human rights, such as access to higher education, and if we practice our religion, we can be imprisoned. And because my dad was a wealthy businessman, one day all the belongings we had were confiscated and there was nothing we could do about it. After that, we began planning our escape.
It wasn’t until a week later we found out the first group had all been taken to prison by the Iranian authorities. Everyone had been put into solitary confinement, even the younger girls, who were only 9 and 10 years old. Later, we found out they were coming to the little ones and telling them that their mother was neglecting them. They said, ‘We have been telling her to accept becoming a Muslim, so she can give you the best life, but she refuses, so she doesn’t love you anymore.’ And this caused a lot of psychological damage to them. After a week, my second youngest sister started having mental problems and wouldn’t stop screaming, so they finally allowed her to be with my mother, but the other two girls stayed alone, and my mother was never told what was happening to them.
6 weeks later, we were finally able to see them for 5 minutes each. I saw my uncle first and I noticed he didn’t take his hands out of his pockets. Then, as he was leaving, he whispered in my ear that he had been tortured and that his hands had been burnt. That was a really devastating moment for me. Finally, my dad was able to free them by paying a large sum of money.
After that, we stayed in one of our relative’s houses because we had nothing left. But after 4 months, we decided to try to leave again, this time to Pakistan. We first drove from the capital to a smuggler’s house on the border, and after a few days we drove from the border to Quetta.
It was a very difficult journey for me. It was extremely hot, and the car didn’t have any air conditioning. Then we broke down in the desert without any water and we had to wait for 11 hours for someone to come and get us. At that time, my son was only 2, so I was very worried about him, and I was also feeling very sick. Later, I found out I was pregnant. After we arrived, we rented a house close to the hospital because I was in and out of the hospital until my second son was born.
18 months later, we were accepted as refugees to Australia, but we were separated from my parents, as they were not accepted to join us. Thankfully, they were accepted by New Zealand.
We settled in Sydney in the suburb of Liverpool. At first, I could only speak a few words of English, but I went to the Adult Migrant English Program and I slowly learned. For the first few years, my husband worked and I was basically looking after the kids as we didn’t have any relatives to help us. But I was always very passionate about education, so when my kids were both in school, I decided to go to university.
First, I did a Bachelor of Science at Macquarie University. It was a huge challenge at the beginning because I really couldn’t speak English at that level. At the end of the first semester, I actually failed all my three subjects, and I came home in tears and wanted to quit. But my husband was very supportive. He said, ‘You cannot compare yourself to others. You are a much greater student but your English is not that good and you have a lot of other responsibilities in your life.’
So I enrolled again and next time all my grades improved and I eventually completed my degree. Next, I found work at Macquarie University as an administrator. Then I did my Masters degree at Macquarie Graduate School of Management. After that, I started my PhD in Management Accounting at La Trobe. Right now I am a full time Lecturer at Charles Darwin University in Sydney.
I had a lot of dreams when I was young, but because of our situation in Iran, I never thought those dreams could come true. We were so lucky that we had the opportunity to come to Australia.
My children don’t remember my country. I always tell them about all the hardships and the challenges we faced there, how even doing simple things was not possible, because I want them to appreciate and to give something back to this society that has supported us, been friendly and accepted us with open arms.
Every day, I walk into my workplace and I feel grateful and I love it.
Photographer: Simone Cheung www.facebook.com/simonecheungphotography
Read more inspiring stories in the latest edition of the gorgeous New Humans of Australia coffee table book – the perfect Christmas gift! www.newhumansofaustralia.org/shop
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Such an incredible journey for you all. Well done!
Welcome to Australia Nazila.
Gosh, I’m glad New Zealand accepted your parents, it’s a shame Australia didn’t!
How wonderful to escape such hardship and yet make such a success of your new life. ❤️
I’m so glad that your life worked out so well here and I’m grateful that we have you. I wish that we had also welcomed your parents.
Read more inspiring stories in the latest edition of the gorgeous New Humans of Australia coffee table book – the perfect Christmas gift! http://www.newhumansofaustralia.org/shop
A truly incredible story.
What incredible hardship and amazing resilience!
You should be extremely proud ❤️❤️
This is a very inspiring story, and it shows that how your individual determination, resilience and above all teachings of Bahai Faith helped you to shape up your future for a commitment of offering service to other people and the community in a positive way. Well done
Dear Nazila you always have been a very good role model to so many including myself. By reading your story I am in tears and at the same time so proud and more passionate to continue my study. For sure we are the lucky ones being able to start a new life with opportunities in a great country like Australia but we should remember other Baha’i youth whom still are challenged to get their basic rights in Iran including studying in higher education. You always have inspired many to try hard and achieve their dreams and I am one of them decided to continue my studying soon.
Love you Nazila and your whole family. Your journey here was difficult, but that has made you all who you are: caring, loving, compassionate, dedicated people, who serve the community. We are grateful for your presence. Big hugs
Such an inspiring story.
So proud of your hard job Nazila joon
Thanks a lot for shareing your story of your sacrifise, hardships and success❤❤❤❤????????????????????????????????
This brought so many tears to my eyes. Thank you for sharing.
You are brave and inspiring ❤️
What a journey! Well done Nazila joon????
So proud of you Nazila khanum very inspirational
Thank you Nazila joon for sharing your story . So inspirational ❤️
Another Persian Baha’i lady called Nazila ???? xxoo
This is so inspiring and testament to the fact that people who work hard can achieve great things. I am grateful to read about the challenges you and your family have faced and have many great childhood memories that I have shared with you and your family
Congratulations on your achievements. Many of us went through similar situations to get here. I have spent more than half of my age in Australia and of course call Australia home. But still love Iran because it is the birth place of our Faith.
Dear Nazila, all your dear family members are so very steadfast in the cause of Baha”u”llah and humbled. May God’s blessings be with you all at all times.
Thanks for sharing your story, I think the challenges of your personal journey is not dissimilar to many Iranian Baha’is.
We are very fortunate to live in a country where we at peace.
Julie another AMEP success story!
I feel very humbled to know you, your sisters and your family Nazila! ❤️
Very nice story. Well done Nazila’s with your achievements. ????❤️????????
Wow. We are honoured to have you here. Thank you for your story including all the painful bits. You are very gracious
You have done an amazing job nazila joon. Very inspired by you and your story and achievements . ????❤
I am happy that you thankful to their kindness. We all have to be thankful to our adopted country .????????????????????❤️❤️❤️❤️
Well done Nazila jan for your great achievements????
What an incredible journey it has been. We are proud of you and what you have achieved and looking forward to the next chapter of our lives ????????????
That is a wonderful and moving story Naz. Thank you.