Ali Khaledi has not seen his family in three years.
His family was going to travel from Iran to visit him, but President Donald Trump’s executive order limiting immigration from seven predominantly Muslim countries bars them from doing so. Khaledi does not know when he will see his family again.
Khaledi and seven other Ohio University students from Iran gathered at the top of Baker Center at 11 a.m. to protest Trump’s decision. They held signs with sayings, such as “No hate, no fear,” and “My family is banned from visiting me.”
“We are here to show that we are unhappy about what’s going on,” Khaledi, a Ph.D. student studying physics, said. “It’s discrimination to ban people based on their religion or country of origin.”
Chains were wrapped around demonstrators’ wrists as they held up signs.
“The chains represent the fact that we cannot go outside the country and come back,” Ali Rafiei, a Ph.D. student studying chemistry, said. “We are limited and our families are limited. The chains represent the fact that we are prisoners. We cannot go outside and come back. We could go out, but what happens to our studies?”
Passersby stopped to observe, offering words of support and taking photos of the demonstrators, including Morgyn Freeland, an undecided freshman.
“It’s terrible that Trump is doing this,” he said. “These people have done nothing wrong. … It completely goes against everything our country stands for. It makes me emotional that I’m seeing this right now.”
Kay Tousley, an Athens resident, was walking by when she saw the group and gave them two cookies she purchased for herself.
“I love to see this kind of very quick pushback,” she said. “We’ve got to stop it as hard and fast as we can, you know, all the abominations that the Trump administration is trying to push through. … I wanted to show support.”
Another group of observers bought coffee for each one of the demonstrators to show their support.
Throughout the protest, some students joined. Maxwell Zelman, a senior studying animation, quickly jotted “Jews for Muslims! Solidarity” on a sheet of paper and stood next to the Iranian students.
“Muslims are under persecution and I’m not about to let a second Holocaust happen to a different group of people,” Zelman said.
Not all passersby were so agreeable. A man in a car drove by, honking his horn and shouting, “Vote for Trump,” with a thumbs up. The demonstrators did not respond.
“We are just trying to increase awareness in our community in order to let everyone know that we as students, we are like them, but we are limited,” Rafiei said. “This is discrimination against certain regions and certain nations.”
Rafiei questioned Trump’s selection of the seven countries, as they are not the major sources of terrorist attacks in the United States.
“It’s not going to solve anything,” he said. “It’s just going to put a burden on people: students and their family. It’s going to separate families.”
Khaledi said he is disheartened by the actions of Trump and wants to be treated like any other American.
“We’d like to see different treatment from the U.S.,” he said. “We came to this country because we thought it was the land of freedom.”
Originally published for The Post on Jan. 30, 2017.