By opening its doors to disillusioned Iranians such as artist Shahrzad Changalvaee, the US has welcomed some of its greatest minds. But what now?
Of all the interventions the United States has attempted in the last decade to contain Iran, one of the most successful is perhaps the least known of them all.
The World’s Most Talented
It came in 2012, when Barack Obama’s state department began easing restrictions on student visas for Iranians. By 2015, half of all visas issued to citizens of the seven countries affected by Trump’s travel ban went to Iranian nationals, generating hundreds of millions of dollars in tuition fees for US academic centers. Iran’s top academic and artistic talents flocked to America, in numbers unprecedented since 1979.
It is this quiet victory that Donald Trump’s executive order threatens to undo.
One of the thousands of students who came here is the Iranian artist Shahrzad Changalvaee, who began in the master’s of fine arts program at Yale University in 2013. Three years later, she found herself captivated by the presidential campaign and joined demonstrations in support of Hilary Clinton. On 20 January this year, Changalvaee, returning to the US from a trip abroad, found a different America than the one she knew.