Woman tries to help neighbors get along
By Robin Benedick, Sun-Sentinel
Heather Hosseini knows firsthand what it’s like to be persecuted for
her beliefs and snubbed by others for being different. The Iranian-born
dentist has fought back by making it her mission to persuade people to
embrace different races and cultures. But there was one neighbor she
couldn’t win over, and his constant complaints about junky cars
coming to her house in a gated Weston subdivision contributed to her
family’s decision to move. So did comments from several black
visitors who told her they felt uneasy about having to check in with a
guard at the subdivision’s gated entrance.
She and her husband decided to move to a semi-rural area of southwest
Broward County about seven months ago so they would have more space and
freedom to host large groups of people. They bought a home on six acres
in rural Sunshine Ranches, where houses are spread out and visitors can
get to her without passing through a guarded gate. She chose to
sacrifice her close-knit, diverse street in Weston, with neighbors from
all over the world, for more freedom.
"I wanted to live some place where all kinds of people would feel
comfortable coming to my house," said Hosseini, a Weston resident for 12
years. Her husband, Sam, also an Iranian, is an engineer. They have two
children, Justin, 12, and Leila, 9.
Hosseini, 40, was born in Iran and spent much of her youth at school in
England. Her parents fled Iran during the revolution there about 20
years ago. She came to the U.S. to live in 1983, settling in South
Florida and then moving to Dallas, Texas, where her parents are. But the
ocean and the mix of cultures lured her back to South Florida.
In 1987, Hosseini moved to Weston, where she has a dental office. In
1991, she began lecturing to various groups as a member of the Institute
for the Healing of Racism, a national organization that seeks solutions
to racial and ethnic problems. In 1996, she started the Unity in
Diversity Club of Weston. She regularly has 100 people at her home for
group discussions on racial harmony and cultural diversity.
Hosseini believes her roots in the Bahai faith, the underdog religion in
Iran, motivated her to work for racial harmony.
Growing up a Bahai in Iran, she remembers kids throwing rocks at her and
her sister on Fridays when they carried their Bahai books. Bahais, who
believe in the existence of one God and the equality of races and
genders, are the largest minority in Iran. She said her aunt was
executed in Iran after being tortured to recant her religion.
Hosseini has been snubbed for her beliefs. She remembers two dental
patients who didn’t come back to her Weston office when they found
out she’s Bahai. She said people have to learn to be more
"You can go to the dentist and have an Iranian dentist," she said.
"You go to the doctor and you have an Indian doctor. You’re served by
a Venezuelan at a Chinese restaurant and your car is fixed by a
Jamaican. You can’t get around it anymore. We have to unite and
accept our differences."
Several experiences in South Florida also led Hosseini to work for
racial equality: an African-American man from Weston who was washing his
car outside his house when a white man asked if he would wash his car
afterwards; a Latin woman, pushing her baby in a stroller, was stopped
by a woman and asked what family she worked for; her friend of mixed
ethnicity who was asked her race when buying something at a department
store. The clerk wrote black on the back of the check. Hosseini
complained and the store no longer does that.
Said Hosseini: "I want to be part of making us multicultural, of not
just tolerating each other, but really accepting each other."
©Copyright 2001, Sun-Sentinel