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Iranian refugee, eye doctor and author

Pictured above: The Nurdel family (left to right): Ryan, Mansur, Roza and Dustin pose during a scenic sunset at Daniel’s Gate Park. 

Dr. Mansur Nurdel has lived in Castle Pines with his wife, Roza, for 15 years. They have two sons, Ryan (22) and Dustin (20). Nurdel and his wife enjoy daily walks through Daniel’s Gate Park and the beautiful views it has to offer.

Nurdel and Roza are both originally from Iran, and each fled their homeland to escape religious persecution. Roza escaped with her family to Pakistan and then Canada. Nurdel was 25 years old when he left everything behind to start a new life. He fled Iran with two friends in 1988.

“We fled illegally, with the help of Kurdish smugglers, traversing on foot over a forbidding, snowy mountain landscape,” said Nurdel.

It was a treacherous journey that lasted 13 days. They crossed the Zagros Mountains in frigid cold temperatures, often traveling at night. They would go from one village to the next hoping not to get caught.

“Wild dogs chased us. We encountered wolves and heard machine guns,” Nurdel recalled.

After safely reaching the United Nations refugee center in Turkey, he described, “I could finally let my family know I was alive and in Turkey – exactly as we had dreamed.”

More than a year later, Nurdel arrived in the United States with about $400 to his name and a well-worn dictionary he used to teach himself English. He got his first job making $4.25 an hour working as a night janitor at the Ambrosia Chocolate Factory near downtown Milwaukee.

His boss encouraged him to apply for a scholarship. He got a scholarship to cover tuition for an intensive ESL program at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Nine months after coming to the US, he passed a foreign language exam declaring him fluent and proficient in English.

He worked two jobs and 14-hour days to make ends meet while attending the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, where he received a bachelor’s degree. He completed his Doctor of Optometry degree at the University of Missouri-St. Louis. “My goal was to get a college degree. I wanted to become a doctor,” Nurdel said.

Dr. Nurdel is a board-certified optometrist. He started his own practice, Eye to Eye Care, in Highlands Ranch in 2001 and has offices throughout metro Denver.

A couple of years into his career, Nurdel met Roza during a trip to Vancouver when he was visiting a friend. Six months after they met, the couple got married in Denver and started their own family. The Nurdel family follows the Baháʼí Faith, a religion that believes the crucial need facing humanity is to find a unifying vision of the future of society and of the nature and purpose of life.

Nurdel recently published his autobiography. One More Mountain: Fleeing Iran for America details what it was like being a member of the Baháʼí Faith living in Iran. He will share excerpts from his newly released book on June 3 at 2 p.m. at Douglas County Libraries – Highlands Ranch. The Baháʼís of Castle Pines is sponsoring the free event.

After attending a play of The Diary of Anne Frank with his wife, Nurdel started writing his memoir.

“It was my entire life in front of my eyes. I could not sit in the theater, and I walked out. I was overtaken by emotions,” recalled Nurdel.

Mansur’s fifth grade school picture in Iran, the only picture he has from his childhood.

Sharing his stories of childhood trauma became healing the more he talked about it. He has not been back to Iran since escaping 35 years ago, but his parents and siblings have traveled to Denver, and they have had family reunions every few years in Turkey.

By Mindy Stone; photos courtesy of Mansur Nurdel




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