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Innovating In Iran: Afghan Immigrant Wins Praise In Tehran, But 'Home' Still Beckons

Afghan immigrant and inventor Foruzan Faghiri has lived in Iran since she was a small child. (file photo)

Foruzan Faghiri was 3 years old when her family fled war in Afghanistan for neighboring Iran.

The Faghiris found shelter and education while at the same time coping with the discrimination and restrictions that Afghan refugees routinely face in Iran.

Yet Faghiri persevered, becoming a conspicuous success among Afghan immigrants to Iran.

The 29-year-old physicist's work was recently highlighted in the government daily Iran, which suggested that the young woman's creativity and technological prowess could help Tehran combat its stubborn pollution problem.

There are an estimated 3 million Afghans living in Iran: 1 million of them registered and around 2 million of them undocumented refugees living in legal limbo.

They frequently face discrimination and resentment among other Iranians who blame them for joblessness and other social ills, and are thought to have been recruited by the hundreds for combat duty in nearby Syria, where Tehran ally President Bashar al-Assad has been waging a 7-year battle for survival.

"It wasn't just a few," Faghiri says of the problems she encountered growing up as an Afghan in Iranian society.

'Starting In Minus'

At one point, Faghiri said, she was expelled from middle school over her nationality. Her parents managed to get her enrolled again two months later, she added.