Sobhan Mehdizadeh, head of a large photo studio in Iran, had to flee his country and start all over again in Luxembourg. A portrait.
"You should be a taxi driver", was how an Iranian regime official explained to Sobhan Mehdizadeh that he did not belong. The trained photographer and videographer set up a successful studio in Shiraz, his hometown in southern Iran. "From two employees when my wife and I opened it, we had grown to 30. It was one of the biggest photo studios in the city", says the entrepreneur. In Iran, the state religion is Islam. The other religions, Zoroastrian, Jewish and Christian, have a constitutionally protected minority status, but that does not count for atheists and the Bahá'í minority, to which Sobhan and his wife belong, a religion that was founded in Iran though. They number 300,000 according to some UN estimates, but as the Iranian regime does not officially recognise them, it is difficult to report on the situation on the ground.
A persecuted community
What is certain is that this community is persecuted by the regime: "We suffer systemic discrimination, we can't go to university for example. But I didn't think that one day this would be a problem", says Sobhan. As he studied photography at a film institute, not a university, it worked out well. However, to set up a company, the entrepreneur had to thwart the administration’s pitfalls: "I couldn't have obtained a professional licence, so I put it in the name of a friend who also worked for the studio, it was the only way to have my own company", he explains.
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