LAKEWOOD — Bauhman and Mehraz Badiee know how sweet freedom truly can be.
The couple, who recently opened their new frozen yogurt shop, You Say When Yogurt Shoppe, in Lakewood Ranch, has spent more than 30 years working to give people in their home country of Iran the same freedoms they have enjoyed in the United States.
“People were losing their freedom in our country,” Mehraz Badiee said of their start in politics. “That (got) our attention.”
Although the Badiees have scaled back their involvement in human-rights activism since opening their store at 8366 Market St. in November, they hope to delve back into the political arena with more fervor once business grows and they are able to hire employees.
The cause is one for which they will always fight, they said.
The Badiees moved to Texas from Iran on a student visa in 1979, after the Iranian Revolution, so Bauhman Badiee could study civil engineering.
Their son was born that same year.
“Things were not very nice in those days,” Bauhman said of conditions in Iran. “We had a hard time in Texas just being Iranian.”
But the couple knew the freedoms they were enjoying in the U.S. were something for which Iranians longed. And for many, it was costing them their lives.
“We started becoming human-rights activists,” he said, noting they moved to Miami, where their daughter was born, about three years after moving to the U.S. “When we were in Miami, the killings, executions, torture were going on every day in Iran. We started the organization, the Iranian Society of South Florida.”
Because Iranians overseas were not free to express their feelings on the government, the Badiees and other Iranians stateside became their voices, lobbying politicians in Washington, and elsewhere, to take a stand against the Iranian regime.
“Ninety percent of Iranians don’t want that government (they have), but they could get executed (if they protested),” Bauhman Badiee said. “They could get tortured. We were trying to expose all these things to the U.S. and people.
“Sometimes, politics makes things quiet,” he said. “They don’t want people to know what’s going on.”
Members of the Badiees’ organization wrote letters and spoke with legislators, bringing awareness to the cruelty of the regime ruling Iran.
Their organization, and others like it, directly supported the National Council of Resistance of Iran, based in Paris, France, to create more of a global awareness for the cause and expose the hypocrisy in the Iranian government.
“It was very effective,” Mehraz Badiee said. “In 40 states, there are organizations like ours. Everybody’s goal is to free Iran.
“Through the National Council, all the nuclear activity of the nuclear regime was exposed,” she said. “The first time was in 2002.”
The Badiees admit that despite their own efforts and those of others, the conditions in Iran haven’t changed much in the last 30 years. Moderate Iranian politicians merely pose as such, they said.
But outside governments, such as that of the U.S., and international organizations have since condemned the actions of Iran’s government — and that alone — is progress.
Although they no longer are in Miami where political activism is strong, the Badiees said they hope to continue their efforts from their new East County home in the years ahead.
“It’s every human’s right to be free,” Bauhman Badiee said. “That’s what keeps (us all) going.”
Contact Pam Eubanks at [email protected].
Buahman and Mehraz Badiee, who moved to the East County from Miami in November, opened You Say When Yogurt Shoppe in mid-November.
They fell in love with the franchise after visiting a store in Brandon, where their son lives. Their daughter and son-in-law, Bita and Abraham Alanso, will join them in the business in the coming months, as the younger couple, in April, opens a second location off State Road 64.
Mehraz Badiee’s sister-in-law, Parivass Sobhi, of Canada, also is a financial partner in the business.
“The idea was to have a family business,” Bauhman Badiee said. “I think the most exciting part is we are waiting for our daughter to move up here.”
“We enjoy (this new venture),” he said. “We enjoy being here.”
Bauhman Badiee said the family plans to have a grand opening for You Say When’s Lakewood Ranch location in late January, but no date has yet been set. The celebration, he said, will include free yogurt all day long.
Individuals can find out more about the shop on its Facebook page, which is listed under “You Say When Yogurt at Lakewood Ranch.”