Al Dabiri is a master's theater student from Iran at the University of Missouri with a master’s degree in literature. He came to the United States in 2015 with the goal of having more access to the resources he needs for his research on the Theatre of the Oppressed of Augusto Boal, a type of theater used as a mean to promote social and political change.
“In Iran we have sanctions on academia, so we couldn’t access like thesis or books that are fairly new,” Dabiri said.
However, with the travel restrictions imposed on Chad, Iran, Libya, North Korea, Syria, Venezuela, Yemen and Somalia by the Trump administration, Dabiri is now facing limitations. In the United States, he’s having trouble accessing people from the banned countries who he was planning on using as sources for his research.
“I was going to write about them. I was going to ask them to come over and have a panel with them. So the panel is not going to happen anymore,” he said. “So I just have to rely only on oral histories of what they have done.”
In addition to leaving Iran for academic reasons, Dabiri came to the United States as an asylum-seeker for religious and political reasons. Dabiri converted to Eckankar 15 years ago, which he describes not as a religion but as a religious path.
“I was born in a Muslim family, but in a liberal Muslim family,” Dabiri said. “In Iran, it’s not like that. You have to be a Muslim if you are born in a Muslim family. You cannot convert really.”
Dabiri was born during the war between Iran and Iraq, which lasted eight years.
“It was my childhood, and I remember my neighborhood would get bombed by Saddam (Hussein), the then-president of Iraq,” he said. “I know how it feels to be a kid and lose your friends and losing the feeling of safety. And it’s not easy.”
Dabiri says the United States should help people who are suffering every day, like he was, to come out of their home countries.
Helene Fehlig Tatum, an immigration attorney in Columbia, Missouri, said the travel restrictions imposed by the United States are not the best way for the country to conduct international diplomatic relations.
“It’s a very unwelcoming message that this ban sends out to the world,” Fehlig Tatum said. “And it really does create unnecessary bars to people who are seeking to join family, or to work or study.”
Dabiri does not plan to go back to Iran. He expected to have a resolution on his asylum case this year. However, he now fears that the Trump administration’s travel restrictions could delay a resolution in his case.