Early August, the 4th internation reunion of the Sharif University alumni was held in Santa Clara in the US. According to the alumni association's website some 170 Sharif alumni from Iran, some along with their spouses and children, managed to obtain a visa and make arrangements to attend the gathering. On August 3, a dozen of them, arriving at different US airports, were told by the immigration officers that their visas have been revoked and that they will be deported back to Iran. Some of them, among them a lady with her children, were detained and questioned for long hours, and then transferred in chains and cuffs to prison, where they were "processed" like criminals, and spent the night with criminals, addicts, and prostitutes. The details of their ordeal is best described in their letters to the SUTA president, Dr. Hojabri.
We have had many posts on FToI describing the difficult process Iranian students have to go through to obtain a student or re-entry visa after attending a conference, and so on and so forth. My position has always been, as reflected in comments to a recent post, that one should not subject him/herself to a process where they think they will be insulted, demeaned, humiliated, or subjected to any unpleasant conditions. If one decides to proceed in spite of all that, then complaining about it would be, in my opionion, unjustified. However, this incident with Sharif alumni simply goes way beyond that.
It is understandable, and in fact maybe even justified from a "security" point of view, for the US government to deny visas to the citizens of a country the leaders of which call them the Big Satan, chant death to America, and where their flag is burned in the public as an annual ritual; allowing myself to forget for a moment that none of the people in this incident in fact belong to that group of islamist extremists. I would even go further to allow for a theoretical chance that given the current situation world-wide, with the conflict in the Middle East, it would be justified, with some major stretch of imagination, that there might be a reason to exercise the right to revoke their legally issued visas at the ports of entry, but I cannot in any way understand the mentality behind putting people through that horrible process of incarcertation, psychological torture and physical hardship. Having a relative who spent 3 years in Saddam Hussein's jails as a POW, I have heard horrible tales of torture and abuse, but I do not recall him ever saying that they were asked by the guards to pay them money for the food they were occasionally given. Americans certainly outdid themselves this time. They certainly took "the battle for the hearts and minds" to the next level.