It started when I was 15. My friends were preparing for the entrance exam to the best high school in our city, but I could not even register for the exam because of my membership in the Bahá’í community. One day the principal of the school I was attending said to me, “What makes you think you can enter the best high school in this town?” As I write this, I can still hear the cruel tone in her voice. That day I understood firsthand how painful it is when you cannot follow your dreams because of discrimination and injustice. Even though I was discouraged, I still believed no one and nothing could stop me from realizing my dream of becoming successful medical doctor.
Once I enrolled in the local high school, I had to choose a major. Everyone, from my relatives and teachers to the school staff, told me that I should choose a major related to the subject I wanted to study at university. Ever since I was a child, I wanted to become a medical doctor, even though many people tried to make me understand that because of my religion, I could not pursue this profession. I knew that the Bahá’í Institute for Higher Education did not offer a medical degree, but I thought there would be a way. Therefore, I chose science as my high school major so I could later become a medical student in the university.
All those years my parents and sisters tried hard to support me in my pursuit of my dream. My mother told me it would be hard for her if I left Iran to study, but if I really wanted to, I should go. I thought a lot about leaving Iran. I was just 16, and I knew it would be very difficult for me to live alone in another country. Besides, it would cause my parents many financial problems. If I went abroad to study medicine, they would have to sell our house to pay for the tuition. I could not ask them to do that, so I gave up thinking about leaving Iran.
I studied very hard right up until the last year of high school. That year everybody started to talk about the future. One day a friend asked me, “What are you going to do? Do you still hope something magical is going to happen and you will be able to study medicine?” The way she phrased the question suddenly jolted me awake, and I saw my dream in the harsh light of reality. At last I understood that I could not realize my dream to become a medical doctor unless I could enter an official university in Iran. I took the entrance exam when I was 18. One month passed and the results were posted on the Internet. As I expected, I was one of the 150 Bahá’í youth who did not make it into the universities because of their beliefs.
That day my heart was cut in two by the pain of injustice. I escorted my Muslim friends to the university, and I stood behind the doors. I could not believe that this unfair decision was actually having such serious consequences for me. I was angry for weeks. Over time, I started thinking about other majors. I had always loved studying the English language and English literature. Since both majors were offered in the BIHE, I could pursue my study of them there. Then, when I entered the BIHE, everything changed. I fell in love with its intimate environment and the way the professors welcomed us. I found new friends from all over Iran, friends who were also in my situation.
Something changed in me. If I could study medicine now, I would not be as happy as I am studying English. Whats more, I have understood that when a person loses something of value, what is often gained is something more precious. If I were studying medicine, I would not have the time I have now to serve my beloved faith and to travel and explore the world, the two activities that bring me the most joy. I have also understood that it is not easy at all, but we must stand for what we believe in. I am sure now that I would not be as strong as I am if I had not faced these difficult tests, nor would I be as grateful for the opportunities I have today. I have come to think of my education as a tool for service to my faith. Understanding this truth has repaired my broken dreams.