They are young and attractive, the men in well-cut jackets, the women in dresses and fashionably high heels. Some left their their native Iran years ago for schools in Europe and America. They represent the old establishment, not the revolutionaries, said one observer, and in some cases the events wrought by the Ayatollah Ruholloh Khomeini worked against them.

They were among the guests who gathered last night for the opening of an exhibit by Roya Akhavan, a 20-year-old Iranian-born artist, at the Washington World Gallery in Georgetown. The paintings, which are soft, romantic and dreamlike, stay on exhibit until May 30.

"Iranians have sentiment," said Mostefa Akhavan, father of the artist, flashing a familial smile toward his daughter, Roya. He arrived yesterday evening from Paris, where he spends much of his time running his textile industry, the Moulin Rouge Industrial Group, which is headquartered in Tehran.

"Well, I'm glad you're all right," said Cynthia Helms, wife of the former CIA director Richard Helms. He and his wife were both at the exhibit.They knew the Akhavans during Helms' stay as ambassador to Iran, Helms said.

"When will you go back?" asked Mrs. Helms.

Akhavan explained that he had business in Paris and California and then maybe Georgia . . . and then he might head back to Tehran at the end of the month.

"My father was a senator back home," said one Georgetown graduate student from a prominent Iranian family, now living somewhere in Europe ("not at a stationary place I can pinpoint.") "Maybe he would have been in danger if he stayed. I don't know. It's so arbitrary."

The student says he gets crank calls.

"They haven't said anything much," explained his roommate, also Iranian. "They just dial the number and hang up. Please don't use the family name. It could cause inconvenience."

But then others cannot get out, said one guest. "My stepfather is president of a corporation and all the corporations that had contracts with the previous government are being investigated. He cannot leave until the investigation is over. Knowing my stepfather, I don't think he's afraid. He's very conservative, low profile. But that's no guarantee-if you know what I mean." CAPTION: Picture, Roya Akhavan with brother Bahman, left, and her father Mostafa, by Fred Sweets for The Washington Post.