Iraq’s neighbor Iran is on President Donald Trump’s recent travel ban list. John Parsi is of Iranian descent and is an Anchorage attorney. He was born in London during the Islamic revolution in Iran. Parsi’s father was a translator for the British and U.S. governments. He said they were forced to move back to Iran when he was three years old. He has a memory of a neighbor’s home in Tehran being bombed. He said he ran outside and the house was gone. He says his family were Zoroastrian, a small religious group that was not treated well after the revolution. His family eventually was granted asylum in the U.S and moved to Arizona in 1985. His parents still live there. Parsi said he’s getting married in the fall and worries his Iranian relatives may not be able to attend the Alaska wedding.
PARSI: I have one cousin who has fled Iran, again for religious persecution reasons. She’s Zoroastrian and was able to make it to Austria, while there is a U.S. agency that assists people who are religious minorities, Bahia, Jewish, Zoroastrian and Christian who are escaping Iran for religious persecution purposes. They work hand in hand with the U.S. Government to get those people, generally to Austria but to Europe and then from Europe to the United States. So her status, her ability to come to the United States, obviously in limbo, restricted for the next 90 days but in limbo for an unknown amount of time.
TOWNSEND: In the order, President Trump said that persecuted religious minorities would be given priority. He mentioned Christians, but do you think there may be a pathway for your cousin who is in this limbo status right now and the fact that your family comes from a small religious minority, Zoroastrian.
PARSI: I’m not sure, because the discussion so far has primarily been about Christians from those areas, but that part of the ban or the provisions within the ban that permit people who are members of religious minority groups, the only one that I’m aware of that has been identified are Christians, hasn’t really gone into effect, so we don’t know what the impact will be there. Which religious faith will be selected as being permitted to enter or not enter or what that process will look like.
TOWNSEND: Do you think there is any merit to the concerns of the side that says, “Look we have to make sure the Uited States stays safe. So we’re going to do this, even if it’s a little jumbled and confusing for people. This is of national security interest.” Do you think there’s merit in that?
PARSI: Yes. I think there’s merit to say that there are security issues and we should be concerned about national security. 100 percent. But I think where I would disagree with that is that I don’t think that a hasty decision, made in this manner, being selective of countries. The kind of way this plan was implemented does very little in my mind to produce that security but instead creates confusion. But I certainly think there are plenty of people who believe that this policy will provide security and that motivations of security are perfectly fine, I just don’t think that this policy, the way that it was implemented, that those things are going to have that desired outcome.