News - February 1, 2017

‘Because of Trump, I will not be able to present my research’

Teun Fiers

Shokouh Rahsepar is a WUR PhD candidate from Iran. She was planning on travelling to a conference in the US this Saturday. But on 27 January, the brand-new president Trump signed an executive order that disallows citizens of Syria, Iran, Iraq, Sudan, Somalia, Libya and Yemen to enter the United States. Which means Rahsepar cannot go to the United States.

Photo: Shokouh Rahsepar

‘The conference, that is planned from 6 to 9 February, is organized annually for scientists who research the 2010 BP Oil Spill in the Mexican Gulf. As I research the biodegradation of spilled oil, it is the ideal situation to present my work. We are going with a group from our university, but unfortunately, they will need to travel without me. This really limits me in my development as a researcher, because international presentation is considered part of the PhD, as are meeting new scientists and creating a network.

I experience this situation as unfair and racist; in an academic environment, there should be no differentiation between scientists. The organizer of the conference also feels this way: she emailed me that she was very sorry and that this does not represent her idea of America. I have the feeling that this view is more widely spread among US citizens and Trump just enforces this law to announce that he is in power.

My family in Iran was shocked by the news. Besides my situation, they told me about many Iranian students who study at American schools and were not able to go back after their Christmas break. The Iranian government will probably take this opportunity to stimulate hatred against America once again. However, I make a clear distinction between the government and the people of Iran: in general, Iranian citizens don’t hate Americans. Unfortunately, ordinary citizens, like me, are affected by the international politics.’