Travel Ban Affects Iranian Studies Conference

An international conference set to take place at UC Irvine next year is facing issues caused by President Donald Trump’s travel ban.

Since 1967, the Association for Iranian Studies (AIS), a private, nonprofit organization, has been providing support for Iranian social and cultural studies on an international level. AIS also focuses on teaching Iranian studies to undergraduate and graduate students and promoting a scholarly exchange of ideas. Every two years, AIS holds their International Iranian Studies Conference, which brings together scholars and experts from all over the world to share ideas and research. Those wishing to participate must submit papers detailing their latest research. AIS then reviews applicants’ papers and chooses panelists. In past years, the conference has taken place in Vienna, Montreal, Istanbul and Los Angeles. The event at UCI will feature ten panels every day covering various topics, including music, cinema, film, history, language, folklore, women’s studies and anthropology.

Touraj Daryaee, director of UCI’s Jordan Center for Persian Studies and Culture and current president of AIS, is happy to bring the conference to Irvine.

“It brings more stature to our university to have international conferences,” he said.

However, some panelists and researchers scheduled for the upcoming conference may not be able to attend.

On Jan. 27, 2017, President Trump issued an executive order that banned travel from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen. The public was quick to point out that these countries are predominantly Muslim and dubbed the order “the Muslim ban.” The order lowered the amount of refugees admitted into the United States and stopped Syrian refugees from entering indefinitely. Over 700 travelers were detained during this time and about 60,000 visas were revoked. The order was in effect until Mar. 16, 2017 and replaced by Executive Order 13780, which featured an updated list of countries. Iran, Libya, Somalia, Syria and Yemen remained on the list. Sudan has been removed and replaced by North Korea and Venezuela. For Iran, the order strengthens the screening and vetting process and suspends entry for both immigrants and nonimmigrants, except for student and exchange visitor visas. After these new restrictions were released, President Trump tweeted, “Making America Safe is my number one priority. We will not admit those into our country we cannot safely vet.”

Daryaee says the travel ban has put the conference “in limbo.”

“There is not a complete ban, but the way that the [Trump] administration has been able to tweak this thing is that people can’t really get visas. So I have lots of people, obviously, from Iran whose papers were accepted [for the conference], but they are probably not going to be able to get visas.”

Daryaee, who has been involved with AIS for over 20 years, said that professors from Canada who have Iranian passports are also having a hard time getting in. Even Europeans who have traveled to Iran are experiencing difficulty and facing questioning. For those who will not be able to make it, Daryaee is planning to have panelists Skype with audience members, but this presents more logistical problems once time differences are taken into account. For now, Daryaee says, “We’re hoping by then something gets fixed, but that’s a long shot.”

The conference will take place at UCI’s Jordan Center for Persian Studies and Culture on Aug. 14-17, 2018.