Trump’s Travel Ban

BY Zhila Shariat

Banned from traveling to the U.S. - she looks like she could be a real threat to the free world, right? The recent events in the United States as Trump takes office has left the world in shock to the say the least.

Actually, most are just outraged at this gross violation of the constitution. Here’s what many are saying, and how they feel this will impact our world. 

As an Iranian with U.S. citizenship (I’m having a really hard time calling myself American these days), I count myself amongst the “lucky” individuals to not be directly impacted by Trump’s recent immigration ban (so far). However, I feel the rippling effects of this ignorant and bigoted executive order when Skyping with my mom, who lives in Oklahoma, and is dreading the profiling and questioning that she will likely endure at the airports after her upcoming visit to Dubai next month.

I see it all over my Facebook feed via my Iranian friends who share the horror stories that their friends and family are experiencing at the moment. From back “home”, a soon-to-be-married close friend’s Iranian in-laws can no longer attend their U.S. wedding, to the one who happens to be a permanent resident, living and working in the States for the past 12 years and cannot go visit her family, nor can they come visit her. These stories are all heartbreaking to me in particular because it’s my fellow country mates being affected by a country whose very existence is based on religious and racial freedom. There is a lot of confusion and chaos, and while I pray and hope it won’t last, it is important to understand how this ban is impacting the lives of our peers, be it American or foreign, Muslim or not. So I reached out to three of the fiercest Iranians I could think of, Parysatis Peymani, Farnoush Hamidian, and Hushidar Mortezaie.

Parysatis is of French, Iranian lineage, blonde haired, and green eyed. She also speaks better Farsi than I do. She is a fashion creative at the Ykone Agency in Dubai, and runs, where she spotlights both her French and Persian sensibilities. Her aunt, and much of the Persian side of her family live between San Francisco and Los Angeles, and because of this ban, she now cannot visit them.

Zhila Shariat: Do you have any desire to travel to the U.S. now?

Parysatis Peymani: No, and I’m not sure I ever will! I feel sad, angry, ashamed, and outraged (amongst many other things)! I’lI never [understand] the current state of the U.S. mentality, even if I’ve happened to admire a lot of what the nation once stood for - the pursuit of the dream, the never give-up mindset, but is this still relevant?

ZS: How has this ban impacted you or any friends/family?

PP: It has, and a lot! I can’t go to the U.S.! I can’t visit my family members. My grandmother, father, and whole French-Iranian family cannot go visit my aunt or any of our relatives and that’s something we’d never thought was even possible in this day in age. My sister just came back from an internship at the French embassy in NY. Imagine if she had to go back and wasn’t able to because of her [Iranian background].

I am a blonde haired, green eyed Persian-French girl that looks anything but Persian. So when it comes to racism and fascism I rarely experience it, to be honest. The only times I have faced discrimination was upon openly mentioning that I am as equally Persian as I am French! Because I physically don’t match up to racial stereotypes, it’s something I never encountered first hand. But now for the first time in my life, I am now experiencing what it means to be rejected because of your blood, your family, your DNA, and race, something that no one chooses, and happens to be proud of. Given the current state of affairs, I’m prouder now than ever before to be Iranian. 

There are 300 Iranian scientists at the NASA, Los Angeles is called “Tehrangeles”, the Fields Medal last year was given to a young Iranian woman! There are so many reasons to let us be free and part of a nation that once celebrated that.

We also spoke to Farnoush Hamidian who is an Iranian architect, poet, and international model who has been featured in Vogue and Marie Claire and poses for Dolce and Gabbana and Fendi among others. She currently resides in Germany, and has many friends and family members in America, whom she now cannot visit. She spoke proudly about the many successful Iranian scientists and politicians in the U.S., like former Obama political aide Ferial Govashiri and Beverly Hills Mayor Jamshid Delshad, but has been shaken by Trump’s decision to ban Iranians from entering the U.S.

Zhila Shariat: How is the ban impacting you personally? Did you have any travel plans that you now have to cancel?

Farnoush Hamidian: Yes, I just signed a contract with Brave models in Milan, and my contract is a worldwide exclusive with them. They will send me all over the world for work, and now if they want me to travel to America for fashion weeks or other projects, I can’t go, and that’s very disappointing.

ZS: Any insights from friends and family and how it’s affecting them?

FH: One of my cousins studies at UCLA, and her sister wanted to pay her a visit, had the visa and bought the ticket, and now she can’t go. What makes it worse is that my cousin can’t go back to Iran either because as soon as she leaves America, they won’t let her in again because of this new law. She also happens to be married to a sweet American gentleman, so it’s a mess.

ZS: Can you share how this ban makes you feel and how it reflects on America?

FH: It makes me feel like the world is blind and we are still living in the age of HITLER. What Donald Trump has done is not Nazism or just racist, its Fascism, and a really dangerous one!

Hushidar Mortezaie is an Iranian artist and fashion designer, known as “Hushi”. He got his start working for Patricia Field, and his designs have been seen on the likes of Beyonce and Madonna. Born in Tehran, Hushi has been living in the United States for the last 42 years.

Zhila Shariat: Has the recent immigration ban affected you or any of your friends/family?

Hushidar Mortezaie: Yes, it has affected friends who were traveling for art exhibitions, and workshops, now they are stuck in countries they don’t call home, separated from family, loved ones,their homes…their lives uprooted and banned without notice. This is happening to many friends. Also both close family and friends have to cancel trips to Iran, from Iran to the US, and travel between other nations. Many depend on these trips for livelihood and  to see elderly family who can not travel…especially when time is precious. It is greatly affecting Iranians on a large scale.

ZS: As someone who was raised in the U.S., how does the ban make you feel?

HM: Heartbroken, Unwelcome, Outraged. It is unjust and unconstitutional like a cancer that suddenly reared its ugly head at a stage 4 level. Iranian cultural icons like Asghar Farhadi are deemed terror threats, affecting the morale of an entire nationality. It targets individuals who contribute to the world and have built the US into a much greater nation. A stark difference to the land of nightmares being realized by those who support and created the ban.

ZS: How do you see this impacting the world?

HM: It will spread hate through Islamophobia and racism towards those with Middle Eastern [backgrounds], further stoking the fires of animosity towards fellow human beings. The ban has been fabricated by the current office in the U.S. for shock power, to scapegoat Muslims and Middle Easterners, to stage attacks in the west to blame innocent nations and nationalities…all of it to start wars and bring their vision of chaos  and greed to life. It is all a horrific distraction to further insidious goals without the world watching.

ZS: I agree, it’s really terrifying and surreal. What do you think will happen long term, or even after the initial 90 day period ends?

HM: I have no idea, and my fear is that this will be made permanent, but we must all stay focused, vigilant, and make our voices heard by all the necessary means to revoke the ban and bring it to court because it is illegal.

ZS: You created an amazing poster for the Women’s March, can you talk about what it means to you?

HM: Wars manufactured and waged are a constant threat in the Middle East, destroying the lives of innocent Middle Easterners and thus, the world. This only makes the corrupt more powerful with hate, violence, and greed as their weapons. Women are leading the resistance against the ignorant and the backwards, flailing for a last grasp at a dwindling patriarchy, irrelevant to modernity. We all stand together in strength and beauty to fight for justice, the global citizens united in peace for peace. We are one, and yes we will.

ZS: I love the contrast between how beautiful the image is but also how ominous it feels. Tell me, what has it been like living in Trump’s America?

HM: Uncertain and frightening. It’s only the second week. I have personally had many days and nights of anxiety and worry, weakening my spirits. Yet there is a camaraderie that is occurring bringing together many of us as we recognize what is important and that we are all in it together. Divisions must fade and I pray we will  make core values of inclusivity and equality our goal, although we face an extremely difficult struggle ahead.

ZS: Any additional insights or stories from friends/family in Iran or elsewhere that you want to share?

HM: Iranians have survived centuries of conquest, scattering families apart, only to remain stronger and illuminate the darkest of ages. Share your stories and the beauty of your culture. History repeats itself…stay strong and stay true to the original Executive order by a great Persian leader Kourush, who brought the world the first Declaration of Human Rights… good deeds, good thoughts, good words.

Lastly, we spoke to Pari Ehsan (@paridust on Instagram), a talented young woman, based in NYC who has made quite a name for herself by marrying Fashion within Art installations at museums and galleries all over the world. 

Image via New York Post.

In her own words, this is what Pari has to say. 

I’m a first generation Iranian-American born and raised in the Midwest. My father is an Iranian physician who immigrated to the United States in the 1970’s. My red haired blue eyed mom and him eyed each other at the Santa Clara Medical library where he was doing research and my mom was completing her nursing rotation and studies. He stood out to her, every day coming to the library in a suit amongst a sea of disheveled scrubs. He had never seen a redhead. One day after his cousin’s persuading my shy, proper dad asked my mom to coffee in the cafeteria. They had a lovely time but since he didn’t get her number, my mom believed he was disinterested and since her rotation was complete she didn’t return to the library until the books she borrowed were due weeks later. The entrance to the building was through the hospital lobby and over a month later when she returned my dad had moved his studies to the lobby where he had waited for her to return every day, jumping out of the chair and exclaiming Braun-da (Brenda) where have you been. 

This sweet faith and endurance is something that relates in my eyes to the Iranian culture as a whole. My father instilled these qualities in me. He is a practicing Muslim and one of the most open minded, accepting people I know. I grew up with and uphold this perception of the Muslim religion, and that is why it is so heartbreaking for me to see Trump who proliferates the opposite connotation of the Muslim faith as our new president.

Anum Bashir: What was your first reaction to the passing of this executive order?

PE: I was in shock that in just one week he could have the power to violate the equal protection clause of the constitution which prevents discrimination based on natural origin and effect the lives of students, for example who had gone back to Iran to visit their families and are now blocked from coming back to the United States to complete their studies.

AB: How do you think this will change/ impact America, and its people? 

PE: Fear perpetuates greater fear but I’ve also seen and felt a call to action. We are now accountable for a leader whom is so ignorant and self serving to detriment the very freedom and opportunity that our country was founded upon and stands for so we must be a counterpoint to that. I remain optimistic and hopeful amongst intense waves of sadness.

Photo by Arianna Ghazi

AB: How has your opinion of the US changed?

PE: On a human level I am deeply hurt that there are a significant amount of Americans whom support or are able to turn their heads when the leader of our country is ostracizing an entire faith, sexual orientation or gender. 

AB: Do you know people affected by this ban?

PE: I have family that returned to Iran before the ban and have yet to come back.

AB: Do you fear that such prejudice and bans will only further perpetuate hate crimes within and outside the US?

PE: Yes, instead we need to align with the Muslim world and together stand up against radicalism. 

AB: How can we collectively remedy this? Or can we?

PE: My only hope is that this a reawakening towards a love and acceptance that transcends fear, for me that remedy is the arts, I will be, share and advocate the language which brings us together without boundary and through heart. 

Photo by Arianna Ghazi

I have yet to visit Iran and am in the process of obtaining an Iranian birth certificate and passport which is the only way I am allowed to enter the country as my father is a natural born citizen. My brother and I have been waiting for two years as my mother who visited Iran during the Shah had to obtain a new birth certificate and passport in order for us to even apply. We are still waiting for her documents to arrive. 

My cousin, an innately talented artist and photographer whom I grew up with had the chance to visit Iran two summer’s ago, she conveys her beautiful experience here. Through her photos and journal, its important for us to put forth this overshadowed spirit of culture and place, this is the Iran I can’t wait to visit.

Hushi, Farnoush, Parysatis, and Pari are just a few examples of people whose lives and careers are being affected by the immigration ban. There are countless more stories being shared every single day, and I can only hope that it will be overturned soon. I want to end with a quote by Persian poet Rumi that Parysatis shared with me: Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing there is a field. I will meet you there. 

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