Then and Now with Rosa Vasseghi

Activist, creative and peacemaker.

What were you doing in 1978?
I was working in a big company in the South of Iran. The Islamic revolution in Iran began in 1979. When the new government took power they didn’t let me continue my work or my studies. I was asked by the people who had taken over the company to change my religion and sign a paper that I was not Baha’i any longer to allow me to continue working, which I didn’t do. So they fired me and confiscated all the valuable things I had in my house in the South. They blocked my savings in the bank and took all the savings I had. Similar things happened to my family and other Baha’is too. Many people were thrown from their homes, jobs and universities.

What’s your best memory?
Standing for what I believe.

What’s something you couldn’t be without?
My family and friends. In 1997 I left Iran for holiday. I was warned by my family that it was not safe for me to return. So I was forced to face the reality that I could no longer be with my family and my friends. The Iranian authorities not only persecuted me in Iran but also drove me out of my country and closed the door – I was never allowed to return and I became homeless in strange countries. It took a long time to find myself, to overcome my anger and to look around me to see what I could do. Life was not easy in this foreign country without knowing the language and without money. Even so, after all that has been done to me, my family and others, I cannot hate the persecutors. But I abhor the madness of their actions. In November 1999, I arrived in Australia by myself as a refugee.

What’s something that you are really proud of?
I learned to love people, respect them with dignity and I never hurt anyone.

Can you describe an amazing woman you know?
I believe all women in the world are amazing. When I was working from 1990 to 1996 in an advertising company in Iran called Karpay, I designed the first billboard in Iran with the portrait of an Islamic woman to promote gender equality. In 2008, I published a book called “Where is the Justice? Stories from Behind closed doors”. This book is about my life and the lives of other women who were imprisoned.

What are you reading right now? (Blogs, Books, Magazines, or anything else!) I am writing a Iranian Cooking book.

What inspired you to write a cookbook?
One of the my best Australian friends suggested to write a cooking book. The recipes explain how to cook the same way I, my family and majority of Iranian people cook their food. Some of them is my recipes for vegetarians – we cook eggplant with chicken or red meat, but vegetarians can have it with mushrooms. I usually like food from all cultures and I like all Iranian food.

If you could give one piece of advice to someone new to Australia, what would it be?
You believe in yourself, learn English to be independent.

What’s your favourite word?

For you, what’s the best thing about being a woman from a migrant background?
Often, women who are migrant or refugee background are stronger, have more experience and are able to face challenges. Starting a new life, we have been able to get through so many difficulties and survive.

If you could change one thing about the world, what would it be?
I would bring all people who have power in the world together and remind them we are all human.  We are living in one earth. We do not need fighting with each other. We are all citizens of this world.

All Baha’is believe in “the equality of men and women, the two wings on which the bird of humankind is able to soar”. We believe peace can built through unity among people of all backgrounds, based on the recognition that we are all members of one human race who share the earth as our common home. Establishing peace requires addressing some of the most deep-rooted problems of humankind, such as racism, extremes of wealth and poverty, equality of women and men, universal education, establishing justice as the ruling principle in human affairs.

We have the capacity to achieve peace and equality if we believe in the potential of human beings. If we believe peace and equality is impossible, this paralyses our will to act.

If you could meet the Prime Minister tomorrow. What would like to tell him?
He is a human like me.  Anything he likes for himself and his family, he must like for me and others.