Travel ban separates Cincinnati man from Iranian fiancee

Posted at 11:11 PM, Feb 07, 2017
and last updated 2017-02-08 07:51:49-05

Editor's note: An earlier version of this story misidentified Atefeh's home country as Iraq. This story has been updated.

CINCINNATI -- President Donald Trump's travel ban on seven Muslim-majority countries spawned a tangled web of legal challenges within its first week of implementation, and beneath the deluge of stays, injunctions, overrides and arguments, thousands of families have found their futures knocked off-course by an inability to travel.

For proponents of the controversial legislation, it represents an increased commitment to national security.

For Sahab Zanjanizadeh, it represents separation from the woman he loves. His fiancee, an Iranian citizen, filed her paperwork for a K-1 marriage visa Nov. 8 -- one day before Donald Trump was elected president.

"When you meet somebody that you fall in love with, it's not something that you choose. It just sort of happens," Zanjanizadeh said.

It happened to Zanjanizadeh as soon as a family friend introduced him to Atefeh.

"I love the fact that she’s really funny," he said Tuesday night. "She’s got a wonderful heart; she is the nicest person that you’ll ever meet."

Within a few months of their first meeting, he proposed to her on top of the Burj Khalifa skyscraper in Dubai. She could not immediately return to the United States with him, so -- after many hugs and kisses -- she sent him back to Cincinnati. He wears a gift from one of their visits to remind himself of their bond: A bracelet with both of their initials in Farsi.

Shahab and Atefeh on the day of their engagement. Photo courtesy of Sahab Zanjanizadeh.

In light of the executive order and the legal muddle it generated, Zanjanizadeh and Atefeh are now stuck in limbo, unsure of when or where they will be able to start their life together.

"There's people here, living in this town, whose lives are being destroyed by this decision. Whose lives are being turned upside down," he said.

He asked that his fellow Americans consider the impact of the president's executive order, and how it affects families living in the U.S.

"I want people to try to put themselves in other peoples shoes like mine and try to imagine what it would it would be like to be denied being with the person that you love," he said.

Lawyers from the Department of Justice, which supports the travel ban, and Washington state, which filed an injunction to halt it, made their arguments to three federal judges Tuesday night. The judges did not give a time frame for delivering their verdict but said they would try to expedite it, recognizing that time is valauble to both sides of the debate.

For now, Atefeh and Zanjanizadeh can only wait -- and hope -- for the chance to be together again.