Muslim woman dreams of dentistry

The 20-year-old woman wants to come to Nevada and learn English so she can go to Truckee Meadows Community College and be a dental hygienist—and later go to dentistry school in Los Angeles. Money’s not an issue. She has relatives living in Sparks ready to help pay for school.

But being a Muslim woman is a problem for Shahrazd. Living in the Middle East is a problem. And getting to the United States is starting to seem like an impossible dream.

Shahrazd lives in Tehran with her parents. Her aunt, Victoria Ghassedi of Sparks, is trying to get the girl a student visa to study here in Northern Nevada. But even after jumping through what they thought was every imaginable hoop, their efforts seemed fruitless.

Shahrazd and her family traveled to the American embassy in Syria late last week, with money and proof of inoculations and sponsorship. But the girl’s visa was turned down, her aunt said, and an official said the refusal came because Shahrazd is female.

Ghassedi called me Monday to get the phone number for Nadiah Beekun, an American Muslim woman living in Reno. Contributor Guy Richardson wrote a recent cover story about Beekun, a feisty woman who knows her way around the Muslim culture ["Nadiah’s Way,” RN&R Nov. 29].

Ghassedi hoped that Beekun might know who could help.

“I’m surprised that our American embassy is succumbing to this oppression of women,” Ghassedi said. “You’d think they’d be a little more sensitive.”

Ghassedi recently retired from her own adult daycare business. She said she has the financial means to help a woman struggling in another country. “And why not help family?”

I called Beekun to give her Ghassedi’s number. The problem, Beekun hypothesized, probably wasn’t as much with the American embassy as it was with the culture and current events in Syria.

Shahrazd may have been denied a visa simply because the staff there is overworked. Or it may be that Shahrazd didn’t have an escort required by some Muslims for traveling.

“A woman needs an escort to wipe her nose and her butt in proper Islamic fashion,” Beekun said, not really joking. She told about a time when she, on furlough from the U.S. Navy, decided she would be a good Muslim and do her pilgrimage to Mecca. After all, she was stationed in Egypt. Beekun caught a train to Rome and popped over to the Saudi Arabian Embassy to tell them what she wanted to do.

“But there was no way in havoc they were going to let a single female go by herself on a pilgrimage to Mecca,” Beekun said.

Ghassedi intends to achieve her goal. She called the embassy in Syria at 4 a.m. Pacific time Tuesday.

“I worked some guy up, and he told me the embassy was closing and hung up on me,” she said. “The moron.”

As of Tuesday, she had also received promises from Sen. John Ensign and Rep. Jim Gibbons to write letters on her behalf.

She can’t see why success wouldn’t be eminent.

"We’ve done our homework," she said. "We’re not some fly-by-night sappy people trying to get her here."