Payam Zamani is an entrepreneur, philanthropist and investor. His company One Planet Ops is a hybrid tech firm that runs a suite of online technology businesses in the real estate, home improvement, and automotive industries; invests in a broad range of new businesses including e-commerce, autonomous driving and other automation devices; and offers mentoring services to entrepreneurs, offering unique opportunities to recent graduates. The company’s mission is to support strong business ideas while at the same time building a business ethos that helps improve society and gives back to communities – a philosophy they call “Innovation + Intention”.

Zamani has lived in Silicon Valley since the early 1990s. Born in Iran, he was forced to leave the country as a teenager after facing religious persecution for being a part of the Baha’i community, Iran’s largest religious minority. His early experiences as a refugee fleeing his own country has formed his approach to life, work and community engagement.

“As a 16-year-old in Islamabad, Pakistan, the first thing the US embassy did was hire a lawyer to fight for me so I would gain admittance to the US,” Zamani says.  “I came to tears when I realized that I escaped human rights atrocities in my own country… and, here's a country that doesn't know me, and they're willing to fight, make a case in order to get me accepted to enter their own country. When I arrived, the way I was treated in this country was with the utmost respect. They allowed me to grow and make a life for myself.”

Today, in addition to the business mandate of One Planet Ops, Payam and his wife Gouya support the Tahirih Justice Center, which works with immigrant women and girls fleeing violence, and support the Equal Justice Initiative, which is currently building a monument in Montgomery, Alabama honoring the lives of African-Americans who were the victims of lynching after the Civil War.

“I think it's so important for immigrants to take the history of this country seriously,” Zamani says. “Because I'm benefitting from years of history, and how this country has been built. And partly, it has been built as a result of some injustices done in the past.”

A Harrowing Experience

Prior to leaving Iran, Zamani experienced brutal discrimination, the result of the Islamic Republic’s persistent campaign to turn Muslim Iranians against the Baha’is.

“When I was 11 years old, I was expelled from school,” he says. “Often they would ask me and another Baha'i friend of mine in school — there were only two Baha’is in the school of 400 or 500 students — to join the daily mass prayer. We’d say that we had the utmost respect for the Muslim faith, but we are Baha'is, and we have our own prayers, so it really didn’t make sense for us to join the mass prayer for Islam.”

One day, they discovered that as part of his daily sermon, the school’s religious leader had expressed plans to “get rid of the Baha'i kids.” What followed was an ordeal that helped shape the rest of Zamani’s life.

Read more on IranWire's original article.