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Groom And Doom: Iranians' Wedding Visit Dashed By U.S. Travel Ban

  • Golnaz Esfandiari

One Iranian family is just one of many whose plans have been severely disrupted by U.S. President Donald Trump's executive order barring them from entering the United States for at least 90 days (file photo).

Sara had been preparing herself for a joyous family occasion.

The 35-year-old mother from northern Iran had recently gotten her U.S. visa and booked flights to Dallas, Texas, for herself, her 1-year-old son, and her mother, who was equally excited about seeing her grown son after five long years.

Her Iranian husband's visa application had been rejected without explanation, but Sara was trying not to let that dampen her excitement.

Sara's brother, who is working toward a doctorate in marketing at a U.S. university, was preparing for his marriage in February in the United States, with some family members reuniting for the first time in years at the big event. His fiancée was also looking forward to having her Iranian relatives at the wedding.

Then came the executive order. Widely heralded by the candidate, then the president-elect, and finally U.S. President Donald Trump, the January 27 executive order from the White House on "protecting the nation from foreign terrorist entry into the United States" bars all foreign nationals from Iran and six other mostly Muslim states from entering the United States for at least 90 days.

Sara and her family's plans appear to have been dashed.

"I feel frustrated, I feel rejected. I don't understand why we're treated this way just because we're Iranians. We haven't done anything wrong," Sara tells RFE/RL from her home in Rasht, the capital of Gilan Province on the southern coast of the Caspian Sea, on January 31.

She says her mother and brother are also upset.

"My brother was looking forward to having us at his wedding," Sara says, "but no one from his family or the family of his [future] wife will be there."

She repeats the trope -- commonly expressed among many immigrant groups to the United States -- that Iranians "are among the highly educated immigrants in the U.S."

Sara decries the travel ban as "racist," "insulting," and "discriminatory."

'No Legal Justification'

And she is upset that she spent three years clearing international administrative hurdles, only to have her plans scuppered just weeks before her brother's big day.

The United States and Iran cut off diplomatic ties following the 1979 revolution and the Islamist revolutionaries' taking of American hostages from the U.S. Embassy in Tehran. Washington has since relied on the Swiss government to represent its diplomatic interests in Iran.

To apply for a U.S. visa, Iranians must travel to a third country with a U.S. consulate for an interview and eventually to pick up the document. Sara says it took her several trips to Armenia to obtain her visa, adding that "now I have a U.S. visa stamp in my passport but I'm not allowed to enter the U.S."

"The U.S. Embassy in Armenia issued me a visa, it allows me to enter America, but now I'm prevented from entering America," Sara says. "It doesn't make sense, and there's no legal justification for it."

U.S. authorities explicitly state that the possession of a visa does not guarantee entry to the United States.

And the U.S. State Department has regarded Iran as a "state sponsor of terrorism" since 1984, due in part to its support for Hizballah, radical Palestinian groups, and other militants around the Middle East.

'Hoping For A Miracle'

The travel ban announced last week halts for at least 90 days the entry to the United States of people from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen; suspends all refugee admissions for 120 days; and indefinitely stops the processing of refugees from Syria.

But the speedy rollout of Trump's executive order -- just a week into his presidency -- and a perceived lack of preparedness among airlines and airports, as well as U.S. embassies and consulates, has taxed the system and sparked local protests and court challenges in the United States.

Unlike the Iranian establishment, which is deeply anti-American, many Iranians express goodwill toward the United States and American culture in general.

Iran was one of few places in the Middle East where citizens held a public vigil for the victims after the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks against the United States.

"America has always been the symbol of the best and most developed and most democratic country in the world, but these measures violate [American principles]," Sara says. "A country that doesn't respect the rights of the citizens of other countries is likely to be diminished in our eyes."

She says she's still in a state of confusion and hasn't canceled her February 10 flight reservation yet, hoping for a miracle.

"We're still hoping that the [executive order] will be nullified. We're still waiting to see what happens."

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    Golnaz Esfandiari

    Golnaz Esfandiari is a senior correspondent with Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. She can be reached at EsfandiariG@rferl.org

     

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