CLEMSON, S.C. (WLOS) - A Clemson Ph.D. is stuck in her native Iran after being told she was not allowed to return to her home in the Upstate, due to the travel ban on people from seven Muslim-majority countries.
“I'm just trying to be strong for my family, because this is heartbreaking for them. And if I get to the breakdown level, it's just going to be more devastating for them,” said Nazanin Zinouri by phone.
Zinouri wrote an impassioned post to Facebook that's been shared more than 180,000 times:
Zinouri has been in the United States since 2010, based near Clemson, South Carolina, working for Modjoul as a data specialist. The company designs wearable technology in order to improve the way companies function.
“I'm working in a company that's trying to improve workers' lives right now," she said. "I worked in health care before. I take part in animal causes. I try to do all those things in America, so I definitely do consider myself to be part of that society,” she said.
Not only does she consider herself part of "that society," but an American.
"We all work for the benefit of America. We all want peace and good things for the country. That's why I consider myself an American,” Zinouri said.
According to the company’s founder and chief integrator Jen Thorson, Modjoul was founded in June and Zinouri was hired in August.
“It's incomprehensible. This is the United States," Thorson said. "She's a wonderful person, and smart and a major contributor to our company, and it's just incomprehensible to think that she's not able to come back.”
She’s been in contact with Zinouri and has set up a GoFund Me page to help with legal costs in order to get Zinouri home.
News 13 spoke with Zinouri by phone. She described her situation as a nightmare, and, when she started hearing talk that an executive order was possible, cut her three-week vacation to visit family to just five days in hopes of beating it.
She says she was in Dubai when she learned she could not complete her journey and head to Washington, D.C.
“No one was bothering to explain to me why, and no one was telling me what to do now,” she said.
She says she’s trying to speak with as many people as she can to find a way home.
The executive order calls for a ban that would last at least 90 days.
"I've gotten no sleep, and I can't really eat much," said Zinouri. "If it lasts long-term, I need to make arrangements. My place, job, my dog. I can't even think about that right now.”
Zanouri's GoFundMe page is called Let Naz In. View it here.
The president of Clemson University, Zinouri's alma mater, released the following statement on Friday, advising faculty, staff, and students who could potentially be affected by the executive order to defer travel outside the U.S.:
Important information regarding Presidential Executive Order suspending admission to U.S. for some non-U.S. citizens
Dear Clemson Community
A recent Presidential Executive Order has suspended entry into the United States for non-US citizens from a number of countries. More information on this Executive Order as it relates to higher education, including the named countries, can be found here: https://www.nafsa.org/Professional_Resources/Browse_by_Interest/International_Students_and_Scholars/Travel_Advisory_for_Nationals_of_Certain_Countries_Pursuant_to_Executive_Order/
For those faculty, staff, and students who could potentially be affected by this Executive Order, we would advise that you defer any travel outside of the U.S. for the time being if at all possible.
If you have been affected by this Executive Order or if you have any concerns about travel plans for yourself, your family, students or employees, please reach out to either Tina Rousselot de St Ceran, director of international services (email@example.com), or Sharon Nagy, vice provost for global engagement (firstname.lastname@example.org) or call the Office of Global Engagement at (864) 656-3614.
Our international students, faculty and staff are important members of our university community. We will continue to monitor this rapidly evolving situation and keep the university community updated as more information becomes available.
James P. Clements, Ph.D.