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Iranian University of Manitoba student stopped from travelling to present at U.S. conference

Elnaz Afshari was stopped from entering the United States from Winnipeg to present at a prestigious academic conference. Talia Ricci / Global News

WINNIPEG — Elnaz Afshaipour said her nightmare experience at the Winnipeg airport began when she entered her booking information and the screen read “error.”

“That was my first try, I tried several times. Then I scanned my passport and it didn’t work again,”Afshaipour said.

The University of Manitoba student is getting her PhD in electrical engineering and was scheduled to leave for California at 6 a.m. Saturday. She was heading to San Fransisco, Cal., for a prestigious  physics conference that she put months of work into.

Afshaipour said the Air Canada staff appeared to be confused about why her ticket wasn’t working, until they realized what was happening.

“That was the time that I broke into tears,” she said. “They were feeling sad for us, the ladies from Air Canada.”

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She was stopped from boarding her flight after U.S. President Donald Trump’s travel ban because she is Iranian. The last person she tried to negotiate with at the airport was a U.S. border protection officer.

READ MORE: Trump refugee ban causes chaos, panic, anger worldwide

“I showed him I had an official invitation letter from the conference, I have a valid visa, this is where I pay rent,” she said.

“He said ‘we can’t do anything because we got an email two hours ago. We can’t let you in that’s an order,'” Afshaipour recalls.

The student says she has no ill-feelings towards Trump, but believes Canada can capitalize on the travel ban by holding these international academic conferences moving forward.

“Canada can shine at this time,” Afshaipour said.

Afshaipour is getting reimbursed for her hotel and flight. She made notes on her presentation so that another professor could still deliver it at the conference.

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