Iranian student arrives a week before Trump executive order
A family member's caution and good timing helped prevent a Central Michigan University doctoral student from staying behind in his native country of Iran.
Eshagh Farzaneh came to America to begin his doctorate degree at CMU on Jan. 20 — the same day President Donald Trump was inaugurated.
One week later, the Iranian learned that President Trump signed an executive order barring travelers from Iran and six other countries from entering the U.S. for 90 days.
On Friday, a federal judge in Seattle suspended President Trump’s executive order. Lawyers for the federal government are asking the U.S. Court of Appeals of the Ninth Circuit to stay the judge’s temporary restraining order.
Regardless, Farzaneh said it is his duty to speak out on the ban.
“If I was in my friends' situation, I (would) want my friends (to do interviews) and help me," Farzaneh said. "I think each person should do their duty and dedicate their time. It might affect the decision.”
Farzaneh is pursuing a Ph.D in mechanical engineering at CMU. He was able to study in the U.S. on a multiple entry visa, which allowed him to go back-and-forth between the U.S. and Iran freely for two years. The executive order has put that on hold.
“Because I had (the multiple visa), saying goodbye (to my family) wasn't too hard," Farzaneh said. "After the president's decision, they feel stressful because I'm not allowed to go back to my country. If I go back to my country, I wouldn't be able to come back to the U.S. to finish my degree.”
President Trump's executive order has made an impact on people Farzaneh knows. He said his friend in Iran cannot visit his wife, who is studying at the University of Michigan. Another friend who lived in the U.S. for six years traveled to Italy before the executive order was signed, he said, and now he cannot return to the U.S.
While Farzaneh said he feels hurt by the decision, he maintains contact with his family through Skype. They told him they believe President Trump's decision would be repealed. Farzaneh's family also told him he could come back to Iran if he felt homesick — although that would rule out a chance to return to the U.S.
Farzaneh comes from a farming family. Because of that, he originally planned on enrolling at CMU in the summer. His brother, Esmaeil, warned him of President Trump and said he may not have another opportunity to travel.
“I am here because of my brother," Farzaneh said. "I was lucky.”
Farzaneh said the people in Mount Pleasant have welcomed him. One woman gave Farzaneh a ride to CMU after he was lost navigating through bad weather. He said she did not ask what country he was from.
On Jan. 31, Farzaneh participated in the "Stand Up Against the Muslim Ban" protest on campus, which was organized by the Muslim Students Association. Farzaneh, a Muslim, is friends with MSA President Hesham Tanbour.
Farzaneh said the protest proved U.S. citizens would accept people from the seven countries.
"Most of the people might not be Muslim. Here, I really feel people like each other," he said. "They don't make a difference between their religion.”
Farzaneh believes President Trump will change his decision due to forces outside the country and protests within it. With the executive order and increasing sanctions between the U.S. and Iran, Farzaneh said he feels worried for his family and friends who are not able to study in the U.S.
“Most of the students who are really top-level have this dream to study in the United States," Farzaneh said. "They really work hard for eight years to reach this dream. By this decision, the dream will be finished."
Farzaneh said if he was in those students' shoes, he would not feel sad because he knows the decision is out of his hands. He advises those students to travel to another country to continue schooling.
Although he plans to be at CMU for five years, Farzaneh said a friend informed him that the University of Alberta in Canada is accepting students from the seven countries impacted by the executive order. He said he could possibly leave and family and life are more important than goals.
However, Farzaneh firmly believes President Trump's decision will be overturned and said he plans on remaining at CMU and in the U.S. Farzaneh said it is a conflict between the U.S. and Iranian governments, not their people.
“I think the people here don't follow the government decision," he said. "They think most of the people have the chance to come and live wherever they want.”