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Meet the People Posting Photos of ‘Banned Grandmas’ to Protest the Travel Ban

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Iranian-American opponents of President Trump’s travel ban want you to know that it’s shutting out one loving person: grandma.

After the Supreme Court ruled that the travel ban could not be used against anyone from the six Muslim-majority countries who has a “bona fide relationship” with the U.S., the Trump Administration moved quickly to define that term narrowly. Spouses are included, but not fiances; parents, but not grandparents.

The revised ban temporarily wedges a block between grandparents, aunts and uncles who have been waiting years to reunite with relatives living in America, and some have decided to fight back on social media. Starting last week, many people began sharing photos of their grandmothers using #BannedGrandmas and #GrandparentsNotTerrorists.

Hamideh Seyed Ali (grandmother), 79, Noushin Farasati (mother), 52, Maryam Khatami (sister), 32.Courtesy of Elham Khatami.

One of the people who curates the account’s photos is Holly Dagres, a 31-year-old analyst based in Jerusalem who stars in the account’s first post. She believes the snapshots put a universal face on the ban’s impact.

“Let’s be real. Whose grandmother has ever committed a terrorist attack?” she said. Dagres married her husband in July 2016 in Jackson Hole, Wyoming and says family visits were tough before but feels they’re nearly impossible now. “My family cannot come visit me to meet my new husband.”

Holly Dagres with grandmother Mahin Rahmanian who died at 96 in 2013.Courtesy of Holly Dagres

Elham Khatami, a 30-year-old Washington D.C. outreach director for the National Iranian American Council says she also used the hashtag to put the focus on loved ones. Her Iran-based uncle and his family tried to make it to her May wedding ceremony this year, but the ban stalled the process for so long that by the time they got their visas, it was too late.

“I feel tired of being cast aside and of being forced to prove my humanity at every turn,” she said, adding she hasn’t seen her family in a decade. “We don’t recognize this country anymore, and it’s a terrifying feeling.”

Kia Hamadanchy, a 31-year-old Irvine, California, Democrat running for Congress in Orange County said he sees the ban as destroying America’s image as a “shining beacon of hope for everyone,” but that there’s power in granny pictures.

“I think it helps show who we actually are,” he said. “Donald Trump can go out there with his rhetoric, but everyone loves their grandmother and this shows who he’s actually keeping out.”

Kia Hamadanchy, now 30, and grandmother, Ezzat Hamedanipour, now 86.Courtesy of Kia Hamadanchy

It’s Iranians who the ban could potentially affect the most. In 2015, the most recently available data, nearly 26,000 Iranians entered the United States on visitor or tourist visas. But the Instagram account’s team doesn’t want to limit the photos to Iran. Next up: grandma photos from Yemen, Syria, Somalia, Sudan and Libya too.

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