Behdad Esfahbod, a former employee at tech giants, Facebook and Google has reverted back to the basics again. Since quitting his job at Facebook, and going through challenges in his personal life, battling with bipolar type II, and his marriage falling apart, he has little to lose and has come forward with so much to expose and talk about.
Imagine making 1.5 M salary a year, and having all the luxury in the world and being honored and renowned for enabling the use of Persian and Arabic languages on the web and androids all over the world. Mr. Esfahbod’s achievements started early for him, as a graduate from Sharif University of Technology in Iran, which in itself is a major accomplishment for most, he is also the beholder of both silver and gold medals for Inter. Olympiad in Informatics.
Unfortunately, his fate reverted on January 7th, 2020 when he landed in Iran for a two week visit to his homeland for vacation. Esfahbod’s arrival in Iran coincided with Iran’s attack on US military bases in retaliation to the Qasem Soleimani assassination, and the shooting of flight 752 the next day.
On January 15th Mr. Esfahbod was arrested by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and detained for 7 days while he was interrogated. Eventually he was released, he later opened up about his detention, by signing a deal with the guards on cooperating to spy for them on their persons of interest outside of Iran. Esfahbod signed the deal and escaped Iran in one piece, but as a result of the traumatic experience and feeling helpless, he later fell into his worst nightmare, a severe depression which only dug a deeper hole, bringing up his bipolar type II symptoms. Furthermore, his partner was all scared and traumatized about the Iranian government’s constant attempt of trying to get a hold of Mr. Esfahbod and as a result his marriage ended too. Left in pieces, Behdad could not work and had to take a paid leave of absence from Facebook until he could gather his priorities and decide the next course of action.
Unfortunately, what flagged Mr. Esfahbod to the Iranian officials was his loose ties to Iranian political activists outside of Iran. Regardless, it is a rather gloomy story to stumble upon these days while the world is rapidly shifting behind closed doors everywhere. For someone life Mr. Esfahbod, who worked so hard in his life to accomplish everything he did and to end up victim to vacationing at the wrong time at the wrong place and ultimately witnessing his life go from the highest point of achievement to resigning from his talent and ambitions. It is still somewhat unclear why he left his job at Facebook, but it seems that his mental well-being may have been central to his decision.
Mr. Esfahbod has since been vocal about political unfairness in Iran, taking travel precautions for dual citizenship passport holders, and also about his mental health and the importance of his well-being at this time. He has made it his business to bring awareness to everything that has turned his life upside down in the hopes of inspiring and helping others along the way.