TEHRAN, Iran — On Thursday night, I looked at the news while visiting my family here and realized I had a problem. President Donald Trump would be signing an executive order the next day that would ban me from returning to my home in Greenville, S.C. And it did cause federal agents to block me from my flight from Dubai to Washington on Friday night.
I’ve lived in South Carolina since 2013, when I started my doctoral studies in industrial engineering at Clemson University. I was born in a middle-class family in Tehran, raised by parents who taught me to love and respect people regardless of their race, religion or background. I learned to value education for its contributions to community life, its role in advancing social justice, its capacity to open worlds of cultural and artistic excellence — for the way it helps humanity flourish.
My passion for mathematics and problem-solving had started as a young girl. I won a full scholarship to study engineering at one of the country’s best universities. My dream was to go to the United States for graduate school. Professors and departments at U.S. universities were renowned even in Iran. And I’d heard from friends who lived there how nice Americans were, how warmly they welcomed immigrants. I was admitted to several masters programs and chose Northern Illinois University, which offered another full scholarship.
Before I could start, I had to get a student visa in Turkey. My application required additional security checks, but I understood: That’s typical for Iranian citizens, and obviously, any country needs to be sure the people they allow in aren’t a threat. On Aug. 13, 2010, I entered the United States for the first time.