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Far From Preventing Terrorism, Trump's Iranian Passport Ban Is Creating Dissidence In An Already Loyal Community

02/02/2017 13:24 GMT | Updated 02/02/2017 13:24 GMT
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Last Friday, Donald Trump signed his fourteenth executive order as President, an order purporting to protect American citizens from incoming terror by banning immigrants from high-risk countries from entering the United States.

The order prevents entry or re-entry into the United States from seven 'Muslim majority' countries: Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen. As well as blocking short-stay travel visas, it also blocks those who already have US green cards, and also, astonishingly, dual citizens. It starts as an excuse to ensure border security checks are tight, banning travellers for 90 days whilst checks are being completed. It depends on these states to provide information about their personal circumstances to the US authorities after 60 days, proving they are low-risk or in a persecuted minority, or face an indefinite ban.

"I'm establishing new vetting measures to keep radical Islamic terrorists out of the United States," the President told an audience at the Pentagon on Friday, and true to his rhetoric, it was passed off as being a patriotic sensibility. Even to hardcore Trump fans, it must be obvious that it is not that simple. Instead of demonstrating conservative shrewdness, I feel this political move is one of incomparable foolishness.

In context of the executive order, the country I'd like to focus on is Iran. The daughter of a Christo-Zoroastrian political immigrant who fled to Britain during the Iranian Revolution in 1979, to me, it is almost laughable to assume that Iran would simply comply with America's request and hand over personal information about their citizens after 60 days to circumvent a travel ban.

Those observing the Iranian regime and its shortcomings should be familiar with the case of Nazanin Zaghari, the dual British-Iranian citizen imprisoned in Iran on allegations of 'spying'. In its excessive paranoia, the Iranian regime has a tendency to accuse anyone with western ties of spying, and due to its diplomatic rigidity, is unlikely to withdraw these accusations with foreign intervention. In Ms Zaghari's case, her dual citizenship is not recognised by Iran, which considers her a citizen of its state only, and therefore by its own law is under no obligation to listen to diplomatic pleas from the Foreign Office here in the UK.

What Trump has failed to see is that by highlighting those with western ties, whether dual citizens, or those with US green cards wishing to return to the United States, he has now created hundreds more Nazanin Zagharis. He is forcing the Iranian authorities to investigate those who could have previously passed through customs with limited risk of arrest. What Trump has done is unwittingly put a huge number of westernised Iranians at risk.

This brings me to another of the executive order's misunderstandings: it is not a Muslim ban - but an outright ban on citizens of these countries. The order has failed to take into account that asking travellers to deliberately denounce Islam in 'Muslim majority' countries is tantamount to heresy.

I have strong opinions on radical Islamism and the damage it can do, but this is not the right way to tackle extremism. As the millions of non-religious, westernised, educated, successful Iranians will tell you, the difference between citizen and state is palpable. Iranian citizens are progressives. Women demonstrating enormous acts of defiance by covering their heads as loosely as possible, with glimpses of their dyed-blonde hair showing through; street parties in Tehran when the more liberal President Rouhani, educated in Glasgow, was elected to replace Ahmedinejad; no conflict or warfare on the streets; no contemporary reports of Iranian extremists.

But behind this are subtleties that others can't see: press and internet censorship; religious law; prudishness. These are the signs of citizens surviving under a country's dictatorship, not signs of a regressive society. Denouncing Islam in this environment in order to enter the United States, and getting Iran to send proof of your persecution to the US, is a risk which could put citizens in considerable personal danger. This order does nothing to punish the Iranian regime as it is intended, but punishes the people who already disagree with it: it's subjugated citizens.

The Iranian voice is often silent in countries such as Britain and America, because of their love for western culture and their patriotism for their adopted countries - they are too assimilated to speak out, or to want to stand out. Naturally conservative and with a severe dislike of religious extremism due to their backgrounds, if the pre-election media reports are to be used as an example, I believe many American-Iranians were Trump voters.

As a result of this executive order, I see America in a place of increased vulnerability, both diplomatically and internally. By implementing these extreme measures, Trump is creating tension and division that did not previously exist. He will not only fail to achieve diplomatic superiority over Iran, but will fail the very people who he should be supporting in their fight against radicalism.