Fleeing the Hijab: A Jewish woman's escape from Iran

Author and inspirational speaker Iranian-born Dr. Sima Goel will share her story of escape, courage, and freedom on Tuesday, Oct. 29 at 7:00 p.m. in a free, community-wide presentation on the Schultz Campus for Jewish Life.

As an Iranian teenager, she crossed the most dangerous desert in the world rather than accept the restrictions of life in Iran of the early 1980s.

Shortly after turning 17, Dr. Goel and another teenage girl traveled, hid and made their way past smugglers, rapists and murderers out of Iran into Pakistan and then on to the West.

Dr. Goel lived under two dictatorships; The Shah and The Ayatollah Khomeini, she knows what is at stake. In her memoir, Fleeing the Hijab: A Jewish Woman’s Escape from Iran, she shares how life in her beloved home changed inexorably from a paradise to hell.

Her journey began at age thirteen when she spontaneously defended a Baha’i classmate against a schoolyard bully. This act triggered events that would eventually take her into danger and far from her beloved homeland. 

Following the 1979 Iranian Revolution, every female had to wear a loose dress, headscarf, and pants that hid the shape of one’s legs. Women feared going about without proper attire.

As living conditions worsened and Dr. Goel eventually lost access to education, she desperately sought a better life. After being blacklisted at her school and forced into hiding, she ultimately left her home in Shiraz. Her mother knew smugglers who could help the young girl flee, but the possibility of death in the desert lingered. 

Dr. Goel was reluctant to leave her family, but her mother called life in Iran a “living death.” For that reason, with no possessions — not even a photograph — at the age of 17, she fled and miraculously survived her journey through the desert.

With the publication of her memoir in 2015, Dr. Goel fulfilled a promise she made to herself on a night of her desert crossing: to share her story with as many people as possible and to tell of the power of faith, hope, and perseverance.

Once a penniless political refugee, now an established Montreal professional, Dr. Goel shares her belief that an authentic life requires freedom of choice, the most precious commodity of all. 

The Oct. 29 community-wide presentation is made possible through the generous support of the Miriam G. & Lawrence G. Bateman Memorial Fund for Jewish Education.

“Her story will make for an incredible listening experience for all ages and will help us reflect on the importance of our Jewish roots around the world,” said Rhea Bateman, who is helping to support and coordinate the presentation. “Dr. Goel will leave you enlightened and inspired.”

Although the presentation is free and open to the public, RSVP is requested by visiting