Iranian refugees speak about their experiences

As part of the Magnanimous Stories Tour, Fayezeh Haji Hassan and Fatima Heravy shared their experiences with listeners presenting a firsthand account of what both women have experienced as refugees in Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan and now in the United States.


The talks shared the journey of Hassan and Heravy, who will both graduate from their graduate programs in two weeks, with the audience. Hassan, who is completing her law degree, spoke openly about her father’s clash with the Sharia law that ruled Iran and her family’s eventual exit from the country to Afghanistan as refugees. It was during this section of Hassan’s speech that she explained the inception of her desire to become a lawyer, with the injustice against those that she cared about centering her learning. Hassan stated, “I got into a Ph.D. program and I got into law school and I chose law school.” Hassan concluded her tale with her struggle to find asylum within the U.S. as she completed her degrees under a Visa.


Heravy, who is finishing her Master’s in global management, opened her segment with a retelling of how she came to live in Iran. She described her parent’s motivation to move from Afghanistan into Iran. Heravy said, “Iran was the closest place to the city that they were living in so they just started walking toward the border.”  Heravy described how her parents pushed her toward education so that they could have a better life, and how she was finally able to apply to college once her family moved back to Afghanistan after the Taliban’s rule ended. Heravy described how, after she was unable to attend college in Afghanistan, she was motivated to move to the U.S. when she was accepted into the Initiative to Educate Afghan Women (IEAW). It was during the application period for the IEAW that Heravey met Hassan through a program established by Hassan designed to train and then hire females from within the community.

Both Hassan and Heravy described their brief tenures as teachers to the other refugee children and of their employment at the various NGOs within their cities of refuge.


“I was under 18 and I was managing my first job. I was managing 250 people” Hassan stated.


The Magnanimous Stories Tour finished its three-town circuit with two talks in Bozeman on April 21. The tour — which visited Missoula, Helena and Bozeman — was inspired by an article published in Forbes magazine and written by Hassan entitled “The American Dream is human rights.” The tour was created through the efforts of Michelle Risho, a resident of the greater Bozeman area and a practitioner of “radical hospitality,” when she contacted Hassan on Feb. 8 with an invitation to come speak in Montana about her experiences. The tour was composed of four public talks, one dinner with the former U.S. ambassador to Iran, meetings with several U.S. government officials and a panel presentation for the Central Southwest Asia Studies 15th Annual Conference.


Risho expressed her hope that these talks would motivate change. “I hope their voices were heard and were able to weave together a stronger fabric that supports the type of life that is magnanimous.”

Fatima Heravy (left) and Fayezeh Haji Hassan (right) pose after their talk at the Bozeman Public Library.
Photo by Sam Klusmeyer