Iranians are in shock and dismay following the implementation of President Trump’s executive order halting refugee acceptance and banning entry of people from seven Muslim majority countries: Iran, Iraq, Syria, Sudan, Yemen, Libya, and Somalia.
While this executive order has been widely seen as a “Muslim ban,” the Trump Administration has rejected this claim, and argues that it is acting to counter the threat from violent Islamic extremism.
To be clear, this is not a “Muslim ban.” If it were, it would have included other predominantly Muslim countries in the Middle East, Asia, and Africa. It is also not a response to violent extremism. If it were, it would have included the countries whose nationals have been responsible for terrorist attacks in the United States.
The executive order is titled, “Protecting the Nation From Foreign Terrorist Entry Into the United States,” and the text references the September 11, 2001 attacks and subsequent terrorist attacks that tragically occurred in the United States. However, the order omits many of the countries that have posed and continue to pose a threat to the United States.
According to CATO Institute’s report, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt, and Lebanon are the countries whose nationals are responsible for 99.3 percent of all fatalities by terrorist acts in the United States since 1975, and yet these countries are excluded from the ban.
The ban is not only against the nationals of the seven countries, but has also impacted individuals holding a United States Permanent Residency (Green Card), or dual citizenship. Those arriving at American ports of entry since Friday night have been detained, bodies searched, phones checked, and questioned about political views and religious beliefs.
Stories range from people who were taken off their flights, to stranded passengers waiting in the countries where they had a layover, and travelers visiting family back home who are bewildered about how to go back to their lives in the United States. A wedding has been postponed, a pregnant Iranian women was barred to be with her husband, a PhD professor at Clemson University was forced to disembark the plane at Dubai International Airport, a scientist headed to Harvard Medical School was denied boarding, and a group of Iranian actors nominated for the Academy Awards will not be able to attend.
Ordinary people, employees of American businesses, schools, and organizations, as well as cultural and educational exchanges, are all affected by this new order. Google, Microsoft, Facebook, and multiple other Silicon Valley and American entities have asserted their dismay at President Trump’s decision, and have vowed their support for more than 200 employees who are nationals of the seven countries.
In response to the ban, Iran’s Foreign Minister Javad Zarif issued a statement articulating Iran’s position and reaction, asserting that the ban “is a clear insult to the Islamic world, and especially the great nation of Iran; and despite claims being made to combat terrorism and protecting the people of the United States, it will be recorded in history as a great gift to extremists and their supporters.”
The report further states that the ban “has put on clear display the baselessness of the United States claims of friendship with the Iranian people while only having issues with the Government of Iran.”
Indeed, this action is directly aimed at the Iranian people, and the segment of the population which is most in line with American values and who most aspire to live in the United States.
In a reciprocal measure outlined in the statement, Iran also is barring American citizens but not retroactively. “While respecting the American people and differentiating between them and the hostile policies of the U.S. Government – Iran will take reciprocal measures in order to safeguard the rights of its citizens until the time of the removal of the insulting restrictions of the Government of the United States against Iranian nationals,” the foreign ministry said.
After Trump’s victory in November, an optimistic piece was written that was hopeful the Trump presidency would realize the importance of a rapprochement with Iran. Unfortunately, today the hopes for better relations have been severely diminished. At a time when Iran has opened its doors to the world, the United States continues to create hurdles for Iranians to reap the benefits of the nuclear deal. This executive order is among the first actions by Donald Trump as president, and we are yet to witness the new administration’s strategy and approach toward the nuclear deal with Iran and the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council plus Germany.
The outpouring of support from ordinary American people who gathered and protested against the ban at New York’s John F. Kennedy Airport, Los Angeles International Airport, Washington Dulles Airport, Chicago’s O’Hare Airport, the march in Washington, Philadelphia, New York, and many other places around the United States, was, and is, the only beacon of hope for Muslims, immigrants, and refugees from around the world.
So is the American court system. Multiple lawsuits have been filed in response to the detentions. A federal judge in the Eastern District of New York granted an emergency stay on the ban and deportation of those in custody in the airports. The American Civil Liberties Union is responsible for taking action in court and has promised to follow up to show that the executive order is unconstitutional and violates previous American law banning exclusions based on national origin.
Foreign Minister Zarif’s public diplomacy message during the nuclear negotiations was “Ending An Unnecessary Conflict and Opening New Horizons.” It is a sad realization to assert that President Trump is initiating another unnecessary conflict and ending the opening of new horizons with Iran.
Mehran Haghirian is an Iranian Graduate Student at American University’s School of International Service in Washington D.C., and he is currently a Project Assistant at Atlantic Council’s Future of Iran Initiative.
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