‘No one warned me’: Clemson Ph.D. grad stuck in Iran goes viral

(CNN) — When Nazanin Zinouri was removed from a flight to the United States on Saturday, she first thought about what would happen to her house in Greenville, South Carolina.

She thought about her personal belongings, strewn across the room. She thought about her car, still sitting at the airport.

And she thought about her 6-month-old puppy, Baxter, and what would happen to him.

But after thinking of those “simple things,” she said in an interview with CNN, she realized: “I actually might lose my entire life there.”

Zinouri, an Iranian citizen who has lived in the United States for the past seven years, is one of a number of foreign workers who were blindsided by President Trump’s executive order banning residents of seven Middle Eastern countries from visiting the United States.

Zinouri recently earned her Ph.D. in industrial engineering from Clemson University, and was awarded the Janine Anthony Bowen Graduate Fellow award for her outstanding academic performance in her field.

She has worked at the tech company Modjoul in South Carolina for the past six months under a worker visa.

Trip to Iran

Zinouri went on vacation on January 20, the same day Trump was inaugurated, intending to visit family and friends in Tehran, Iran, through February 10.

But her peaceful vacation was cut short when she learned that Trump’s executive order suspends all citizens of Iran from traveling to the United States. She rushed to buy a plane ticket to the States and was set to board a flight from Dubai to Washington on Saturday.

That’s when security pulled her off the flight and briefly told her she would not be allowed to return to the United States.

Zinouri told her story in a Facebook post that has since gone viral, garnering nearly 175,000 shares.

In the post, she expresses frustration with the lack of communication on the travel ban.

“No one warned me when I was leaving, no one cared what will happen to my dog or my job or my life there,” she wrote. “No one told me what I should do with my car that is still parked at the airport parking. Or what to do with my house and all my belongings.”

“They didn’t say it with words but with their actions, that my life doesn’t matter. Everything I worked for all these years doesn’t matter,” she wrote.

Stuck in Tehran

Speaking with CNN over the phone from Tehran, Zinouri said she was with family in Tehran and still trying to go back to South Carolina.

“I’m trying my best and I’ll do everything in my power, and I will stay hopeful that I’ll go back to my home,” she said.

In the meantime, she said she’s received “amazing” support from friends, co-workers and others who have heard her story. A GoFundMe page was started to help Zinouri with her legal expenses in trying to return to the U.S.

Baxter is still being watched by a neighbor, though there is not yet a long-term plan.

But if and when she does return to the United States, she said she can’t wait to take Baxter on a walk by the waterfall in downtown Greenville.

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