After attending the University of Tehran and earning a degree in electrical engineering, Hezari left his native Iran in 1953 and moved his family to Tangier, Morocco, to spread his faith. While he was there, he worked as an engineer and later as a station manager for the Voice of America, a federal international broadcasting service.
The Baha’i religion was founded by Baha’u’llah, who preached that all faiths represent progressive stages in the revelation of God’s will. There are no clergy, so the religion is spread by devotees of the faith, like Hezari, said his daughter, Emilia Hezari .
“Investigation of truth is the heart of our faith,” she said.
In present-day Iran, the Baha’is have been one of a number of religious minorities persecuted for their beliefs. According to Amnesty International, 50 members of the Baha’i community have been arrested since the June 2009 disputed presidential election there.
The elder Hezari was born in a time when kerosene lamps were still used in his hometown of Qazvin . In 1931, when he turned 9, the town’s only electrician began wiring houses, and Hezari followed him around for hours. After studying the electrician’s work, he wired his own house for electricity, he often told his daughters.
“When he would tell us that story, his eyes would just light up,” Emilia Hezari said. “He never saw anything as a problem that was unsolvable. He had this immense curiosity for life, and no problem was no big or too hard.”
After he graduated from the university, he met Hovieh Siavokhi in Karaj, Iran, in 1950.
“I had chickenpox at the time,” she said, laughing. They married when she was 16 and he was 28 .
“He would tell me this story about when he was little, how he would watch this ant trying to carry food and drop it and then pick it up again and drop it,” said Hovieh Hezari , 75 . “He said that ant helped him to think about how we should live our lives, just persevering like the little ant.”
He was running an electronics repair business in Araq when he received a letter. In 1953, the guardian of the faith, Shoghi Effendi , the great-grandson of Baha’u’llah, asked Baha’is to consider leaving their home countries to go to places where the faith hadn’t been introduced. In September of that year, he moved to Tangier to pioneer the Baha’i faith there. Along with other Baha’is who moved there during the 10-year crusade, Hezari held prayer and informational meetings about the faith for Moroccans.
He continued repairing electronics in a rented shop before he went to work at the Voice of America.
Emilia Hezari said the family left Morocco for Austin in 1982 so she and her sisters, Roya and Mehri , could pursue a college education. “It was a sacrifice my father made to leave the place he loved,” she said.
Shortly after the family’s move, Hezari found a job at the University of Texas College of Communication, where he worked as an engineer for 12 years until he retired in 1994, Emilia Hezari said. She said that she would sometimes meet her father for lunch at the Texas Union to give him a hug.
“In our faith, we believe that the soul is still around,” she said. “It’s like if you break a perfume bottle, the perfume is gone, but the scent remains. But I do miss being able to kiss him and hug him.”