Mostafa Rajaai's family are being kept apart by the Muslim travel ban, but he argues the rest of us have sat and watched Islamophobia and prejudice rage on in silence.

Mostafa Rajaai's family are being kept apart by the Muslim travel ban, but he argues the rest of us have for so long sat and watched Islamophobia and prejudice rage on in silence.

It’s been over seven years since my uncle, who happens to be my closest friend, moved to the United States. Born in Tehran, and a student at the Sharif University of Technology, he was offered a fully-funded scholarship to study in the United States. In 2009 he made his way to Seattle.

Before Trump’s new Islamophobic policies were implemented, navigating the U.S. approach to border control was hardly a walk in the park. With so many restrictions, risks, and regulations, my uncle has only once ventured back to Iran since landing in the land of the free.

But we are family, and many of us miss him dearly and are desperate to see him. My parents moved to Toronto in Canada back in 2012, both Iranian nationals, and hoped that in doing so they might get to see my uncle. Both holding Iranian passports, they applied for visas to visit the U.S., my sister and her husband applied for the same visa from the Netherlands where they live.

Two months passed, no communication came from the American government. Then, just two days before the Muslim Ban executive order came from the Trump administration, their visas were granted. For 48 hours a reunion looked possible, but so quickly it was pulled away from us all.

Watching the ban materialise before my eyes, a ban that hits me, my family, my fellow Iranians and the citizens of six other countries, it felt like a dagger in my heart. Not because I have always dreamt of visiting the states, but because the only way to be reunited with my uncle is to get through that dehumanising border control system. Now even that seems impossible.

I, however, am not even that concerned about my own situation, but that of my grandparents. My elderly grandfather has been living in despair, hoping to see his youngest child. Given his medical condition, it’s taken years for him to be cleared by doctors to take the long journey to visit America. It was heartbreaking to witness the distress this order has caused him. As we spoke on the phone, he in Iran, I could hear his voice breaking under the uncertainty of not knowing whether he would ever be able to see his son again.

My family feels torn by borders, regulations and limitations over which we have no control.

Just a few months ago I was telling my uncle that he shouldn’t worry, that this divisive, hateful parody of a reality TV star would never president of the United States. I was mistaken.

This travel ban, in all its hateful irony, is at least an inclusive one. It not only discriminates against nationals of the seven bizarrely chosen countries, but it has also made the future of many dual nationals as uncertain. The scope of its destructiveness dawned on me when a British Iranian friend of mine, currently a student in New York, told me she’d been left with no choice but to cancel her plans to visit her home in London, unsure whether she’d be let back in at the American border upon her return.

She told me how so many of her friends are in a similar situation, in fear leaving the U.S. to visit loved ones.

When in February 2015 I was elected as the International Students Office for the UK National Union of Students, I already knew what it felt like to live in a country where those seen as outsiders are treated like second class citizens by the state; I’m a brown person living in Britain.

But now everyday I see how awfully the students I represent are treated, and those not in education too, and I often feel hopeless. Whether it was Theresa May wrongly targeting 48,000 international students, or locking us up in indefinite detention, the cruel way we are treated is truly hateful.

When the UK, a country many of us see as home, is so quick to be complicit in Trump’s Muslim ban by inviting him on a state visit, how can we be sure the same thing is not going to happen to us here?

We have heard many times over the past few days an adaptation of Niemöller’s famous poem: ‘First they came for the Socialists’. It’s been adapted to ‘First they came for the Muslims’.

We have seen placards waved all over the world asserting that Trump will not be allowed to ‘come for the Muslims’, but we all know that Muslims have been coming under attack on both sides of the Atlantic for many, many years. Perhaps though, never so openly.

There’s no point in pretending that wider society, including many now so outraged by Trump, have been vigilant, or stood in solidarity with the most marginalised when branded as the source of all evil. There’s no point pretending that something so much earlier could have been done. All I hope is that Trump’s outrageous attacks on migrants, refugees and Muslims might be a wake up call to the world, so you all see what has for so long been happening.

Mostafa Rajaai is the International Students officer at the National Union of Students in the UK.

Like Huck on Facebook or follow us on Twitter