UT scientist can’t go to MIT?

| Ton Fiselier

It was hard to miss last weekend’s news: Donald Trump signed an executive order banning people from seven Muslim countries from entering the United States for the next ninety days. This ban impacts many people, including scientists such as Iranian PhD candidate Davood Baratian who might not be able to conduct his planned research at MIT.

Davood Baratian, who also serves as head of social media at the PhD Network at the University of Twente, has been planning to spend time at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) from April on, but now sees his plans undermined because of the ban. ‘It is a serious problem, and I think it is in direct violation of the Constitution. The American Constitution clearly states that discrimination on the basis of religion or country of origin is not permitted, but that is exactly what this ban entails. Also, imagine if Iranians where banned from the start of the States’ existence. There would be no eBay or Dropbox since the founders and co-founders of those companies are of Iranian heritage.’


Despite his worries, however, Baratian sees hope. ‘Of course I am disappointed, but I believe in the power of the media and social networks. I think that if the opposition from within American politics, the media and social networks gets to a critical point, changes might be made. We will have to see. At any rate, it is a worrying situation.’


Another UT researcher who faces ban-related problems is Sajjad Rahimi, an Iranian PhD candidate at the BMS faculty and president of the Iranian Network at the UT. He is scheduled to attend the INFORMS Annual Meeting in Houston next October, but is now unsure if he will be able to go. ‘The INFORMS conference is one of the most important scientific gatherings in my field. I was planning to present a paper there, but right now I don’t know if I will be able to attend, because I am from one of the countries on Trump’s list.’

Ninety days

As of yet, the ban is slated to last for ninety days, but Rahimi is not confident that this will ensure his ability to attend the conference. ‘We don’t know what will happen after those ninety days. It could very well be that the duration of the ban will be extended, and if not, I expect that getting a US visa will become much more difficult for people from the countries on Trump’s list.’


Despite the uncertainty about whether or not he will be able to attend the INFORMS conference, Rahimi is more worried about other people. ‘For me the situation isn’t that serious. I might not be able to attend this academic gathering, but then again, it’s just a conference. Other people will suffer from the ban in a way more serious way. Families are being divided. As long as the ban is in effect, Iranian people who live in the U.S. won’t be able to leave the country, because they won’t be able to get back in, and Iranian people who live elsewhere won’t be admitted into the States either. It is absolutely ridiculous, and it makes me worry about the future.’

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