Zeinab Azadbakht is a geology Ph.D student from the University of New Brunswick who is working as a sessional lecturer at the University of Regina.
Originally from Iran, she now has full Canadian citizenship and a Canadian passport. She is still able to travel to the United States under President Donald Trump’s temporary travel ban, which includes Iran, but she is concerned about the ban’s impact on her peers studying in the U.S.
“They can’t go back to Iran and visit their families, or they can’t leave the U.S. because as soon as they leave, and even just go for the smallest chance to see their parents or families in Iran, they cannot go back and finish their studies,” Azadbakht said.
“I have my sister-in-law in the U.S. and now she cannot go back to Iran. She has to stay in the U.S.”
Azadbakht would like to be able to visit her sister-in-law but has additional concerns about travelling south of the border.
“I would be afraid to walk in certain places in the United States and wear a hijab. This is my belief, and I shouldn’t be feeling like that.”
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Azadbakht said she hasn’t encountered this feeling in Canada and has seen support from strangers since the mosque shooting in Quebec City on Sunday.
The University of Regina has over 2,000 international students, and 91 are from the seven countries directly impacted by Trump’s travel ban.
University president and vice-chancellor Vianne Timmons says now is the time to speak out.
“This is wrong, this is wrong in our world. It’s impacting on those 91 students that are here studying at our university and our faculty and staff,” Timmons said.
“This is not an issue in the United States that doesn’t touch us. It touches us deeply.”
Timmons added that visiting researchers at the U of R from around the world frequently have to travel too, so there is a direct impact for the institution.
For Timmons, this is not the first time she and the university have had to stand up for Muslim students.
“The Twitter field went wild about us putting in Muslim footbaths. So this is just a symptom of a prejudice that’s out there,” she said.
Timmons said that there are faculty members who won’t be attending conferences in the U.S. in protest of the travel ban, including Azadbakht.