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Abtin Bahador

Abtin Bahador

Class of 2014

B.A., Sociology
University of Victoria, BC

What did you do before law school, and what led to you pursue a law degree?

I was born into a Bahá'í family in the Islamic Republic of Iran in 1982, several years after the Islamic revolution and the Ayatollah was in full power. The war between Iran and Iraq was in full swing.

The Bahá'ís are the largest minority in Iran. Bahá'ís have been persecuted by the Iranian government since the inception of the religion. The former shahs of Iran and the Islamic clerics at the time feared the rise of the new religion.

Bahá'ís in Iran have been denied access to University and education, suffered lootings and destruction of their businesses, had their cemeteries desecrated and vandalized, and believers have been arbitrarily imprisoned and martyred for their beliefs.

My family felt it was too dangerous to stay. My sister and I traveled to Pakistan on my mother's Muslim passport. However, my father, a fifth generation Bahá'í, had to escape by being smuggled out of Iran. He traveled in trunks of cars, locked in crates in the back of a truck, and even rolled up in a carpet — all in order to provide his family a better life.

My family applied to several countries for asylum, and Canada accepted us. We lived a typical immigrant life in Canada. My father worked several jobs at the same time, including washing dishes and delivering food while going to language classes.

Eventually my father got a job in a carpet store selling oriental carpets. After several years, my parents decided that we would move to Mexico in order to start our own carpet store. The time in Mexico was not easy. Several months after we moved there, the peso was devalued and we lost most of our savings. My sister and I were home-schooled in Mexico. We then went to Victoria, B.C. to attend a Bahá'í boarding school.

My sister graduated law school at the University of Victoria and then got a job as an immigration attorney in Toronto. Seeing the work she was doing to help people stay in Canada reminded me of my family's own struggle to leave Iran, and make a life in Canada and Mexico.

I was inspired by her experience to devote myself to helping other immigrants find a better life for themselves and their children in a new country. I have experienced firsthand the transformative effects that immigration can have on a family's story.

What have you found most valuable during your law school education?

The most valuable thing I have gained from Seattle University has been a work ethic, as well as real-world experience seeing how I can use my law degree to serve humanity.

During my law school career I was fortunate enough to serve as a research assistant for Professor Sara Rankin. I was in both first- and second-year legal writing class with her. I then assisted her with her research articles as well as her legal writing class assignments.

Professor Rankin has spent the last few years working with the National Coalition for the Homeless. She has used her experience to write about inclusion of homeless as a constitutionally protected class. It has been really inspirational to see her passion for a social group that is marginalized and often ignored.

What advice would you offer a prospective law student?

I have talked to a lot of people who are interested in attending law school in my network of friends, and I often ask them what they are hoping to get out of law school. Then I mostly tell them that it will probably be the hardest and most intimidating thing they will have done in their lives.

I warn them that in first year, there is very little hand-holding. You are expected to know what is going on from day one. But don't get too scared or intimidated because none of your classmates do either. If you put the effort in, you can do it and once you do you will have a self-confidence and belief in yourself like never before.

Also, don't lose hope and belief in what inspired you to want to get into law school in the first place. I believe that the profession can be what you make of it.

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