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Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 23 October 2018

Trump travel ban sparks disbelief among Muslims

Syrian and Iranian refugees say the decision is a "complete shut down on Islam"

People protest the Muslim travel ban outside of the US Supreme Court in Washington, DC on June 26, 2018. Mandel Ngan/AFP
People protest the Muslim travel ban outside of the US Supreme Court in Washington, DC on June 26, 2018. Mandel Ngan/AFP

The US Supreme Court's decision to uphold President Donald Trump's ban on travel from several Muslim countries has been met by fury among residents of the Middle East.

Muslims from the region, as well as civil rights groups, expressed disappointment at the court's ruling, calling it a "complete shut down on Islam".

Babak Afshad, 22, a Iranian law student at Georgetown University, who was granted a single entry visa upon his arrival to the US says he feels like a "second class citizen" in the country.

"I miss my family, I can't go back to Tehran as I won't be able to come back to the States and finish my degree, so I'm stuck here and I don't know how long for," Mr Afshad told The National.

Holding back his tears, Mr Afshad, says he is very confused about the reasons behind the decision.

"This is not fair, its all really unclear."

Mr Afshad explains that his uncle (who has an Iranian passport) was accepted to study chemical engineering at Yale University but "his visa application was denied".

The policy applies to travelers from five countries with overwhelmingly Muslim populations: Iran, Libya, Somalia, Syria and Yemen. It also affects two non-Muslim countries, blocking travelers from North Korea and some Venezuelan government officials and their families.

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Protests broke out across the country after the announcement was made. Residents who have family in listed countries are worried about their future and the travel plans of those who want to visit them.

Reglious organizations have released statements calling for public resistance. A coalition of nearly 24 advocacy groups protested outside the Supreme Court on Tuesday afternoon, including the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR) and the Justice for Muslims Collective and the Muslim Public Affairs Council.

Lubna Mrie, a Syrian civil rights activist and student at New York University, has not seen her sister, who resides in Syria, for the last four years.

“My sister was planning to come visit me in August. I can't leave to see her due to my expired Syrian passport and pending asylum case and now she can't come thanks to Trump," she said on Twitter.

As Syrians face violence for the seventh continuous year, many of them are scared to leave their families behind. Yet, hundreds of thousands of Syrian have found refugee in neighboring nations as well as Europe and America.

"I wonder what keeps me in a country that treats us like criminals,” Ms Mrie said.

Ibrahim Hassan, 42, fled Aleppo in 2014 after being detained by regime forces for a couple of weeks. He was granted asylum to the United States, and after a year his wife and daughter were able to join him. Yet, he is still waiting for the arrival of his eldest son.

"My son, Ali, is stuck in Jordan, I haven't seen him in four years. With the travel ban in place, I don't know when we will be able to see him," Mr Hassan told The National.

The decision feels like a "death blow" to Mr Hassan's family.

"We [Syrians] have suffered greatly, we fled our homes to find safety, we are victims, please do not deny us the basic rights of reuniting with our families."

Many Syrian refugees fear returning to the country because of alleged and documented war crimes by President Bashar Al Assad's regime as efforts to reach a political solution continue to stall.

President Trump has hailed the court's decision as a "victory" and "vindication".

In a statement he said "in this era of world-wide terrorism and extremist movements bent on harming innocent civilians, we must properly vet those coming into our country".