3 Iranian Bahai Refugees Reach U.S. After Long Trek

Associated Press

Three members of a Bahai family who fled persecution in Iran have arrived in the United States after a journey that included a trek over Iran's mountainous border with Pakistan.

One of the three, a teen-age girl, rode separately for 15 days across the rough frontier on a camel, said her older sister, who lives in suburban Montgomery County, Md. The sister, Haydeh, had left Iran soon after the 1979 Islamic revolution.

The three, a 55-year-old woman, a teen-age son and the teen-age daughter, arrived at New York's Kennedy Airport late Tuesday night and planned to travel to the Washington area today.

"It has been a nightmare," said Haydeh, who asked that the names of family members not be revealed for fear of reprisals against other relatives still living in Iran. "I am very relieved, but perhaps not as relieved as I should be."

Among those left behind is her father, who she said is being held in Tehran's notorious Evin Prison.

"We have a lot to talk about," Haydeh said. "We could never talk freely for eight years because their telephone was tapped."

Members of the Bahai faith, a religion founded in Iran in the 19th Century, say they have been subjected to increasing persecution under the Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini's government. There are 270,000 Bahais in Iran and 7,000 in the United States, 1,000 of them Iranian immigrants.

Haydeh's mother and teen-age brother had been in Pakistan since March, when they completed an escape that ended with a long walk through mountains to the Iran-Pakistan border, Haydeh said.

The mother had repeatedly asked Iranian authorities to be allowed to leave the country for medical treatment. After being denied an exit visa, she put together a complicated escape plan that included help from guides across the Iranian frontier, Haydeh said.

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