By Nahal Toosi
March 22, 2017
After weeks of trying to bar Iranians from entering the United States, President Donald Trump on Wednesday offered his “best wishes” to them on their most beloved holiday, Now-Ruz, and expressed pride in the many successes of Iranians who were allowed to reach America.
The statement from Trump was released after multiple discussions about whether the new president should say anything at all, a source familiar with the situation said. It is unlikely to alleviate the deep unhappiness within the Iranian American community over Trump’s targeting of their kin overseas through his attempts at a travel ban.
Now-Ruz, which means “new day,” is also known as the Persian New Year’s, and it coincides with the start of spring. It is celebrated primarily in Iran but also in Afghanistan, Tajikistan and other places where many people have Persian heritage.
Now-Ruz “is an occasion to celebrate new beginnings, a sentiment that is particularly meaningful for so many Iranians who have come to our country in recent decades to make a new start in a free land,” Trump said.
“For many years, I have greatly enjoyed wonderful friendships with Iranian-Americans, one of the most successful immigrant groups in our country’s contemporary history,” Trump added. “They come from diverse religious backgrounds — including Muslim, Jewish, Christian, Zoroastrian, and Baha’i — but all share an affection for their ancestral heritage.”
The statement pointed out that millions who celebrate the holiday “will come together with their families during this time.” That bit was striking considering many Iranians felt compelled to cancel plans to visit relatives in the United States for Now-Ruz because of Trump’s efforts to bar them.
The statement was also somewhat late. Now-Ruz is usually observed on the 20th or 21st of March, though in some places it may be on the 22nd.
The president, via an executive order that’s been put on hold due to lawsuits, has ordered bans on the entry of visitors and immigrants from Iran and five other predominantly Muslim countries. Iranians have accounted for more than half of the visitors and immigrants from those six countries.
Although the Trump administration has cast the ban as a temporary national security measure, it is likely to prove indefinite for Iranians. That’s because the government of Iran, which does not have diplomatic relations with the United States, is unlikely to meet Trump’s demands for greater cooperation to vet travelers.
Now-Ruz messages have been a way for past U.S. presidents to reach out to the Iranian people and offer a message of friendship that bypasses the Islamist government in Tehran. Former President Barack Obama released video messages wishing the Iranian people well while pushing ahead with the Iran nuclear deal negotiations.
Toward the end of his message Wednesday, Trump cited the ancient Persian ruler Cyrus the Great in saying: “On behalf of the American people, I wish you freedom, dignity, and wealth.”
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