Part of Trump's travel ban on majority-Muslim countries went into effect June 29, prohibiting people from Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen from entering the U.S. for 90 days if they don't have a "bona fide relationship" with someone in the country. The guidelines for what types of relationships qualify are very specific, and when an Iranian-American woman discovered grandparents from the six listed countries won't be granted visas, the "Banned Grandmas" Instagram account was born.
It all started when Holly Dagres, an analyst and commentator on Middle East affairs who currently lives in Jerusalem, tweeted a photo of herself and her late grandma in a show of solidarity with the hashtag
#GrandparentsNotTerrorists that began when the ban was reinstated.
"Through the Instagram account we can control followers' feeds by posting a photo a day as a reminder of the human impact of the travel ban," Dagres, who primarily runs the account, told Refinery29 in an email.
The Supreme Court will hear arguments on the travel ban in the fall, but allowed it to go into effect in the meantime. People from the listed countries applying for new U.S. visas have to prove they have a parent, spouse, fiancee, child, son-in-law, daughter-in-law, or sibling already in the United States in order to be granted access. Meanwhile, grandparents, grandchildren, aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews, cousins, brothers-in-law, and sisters-in-law don't count as "bona fide relationships" under the guidelines.
"The ban is ridiculous in several ways," Dagres, 31, said. "First, it says 'bona fide' relationship are exempt, but somehow blood — grandparents, grandchildren, aunts, uncles, and cousins —aren't enough."
She pointed out that no one from any of the banned countries has committed a terrorist act on U.S. soil since 9/11 (and none of the 9/11 attackers were from any of the banned countries, either). She also explained why U.S. citizens can't just visit their relatives in the banned countries rather than have them come to America.
"Some argue that we should go visit our families if they can't visit us," but, she added, "some are activists, refugees, and journalists, and going back to their ancestral homeland may put them in jail."
The ban applies to refugees as well as others wanting to come to the U.S., so even those trying to escape war and natural disaster will be kept out.
"We hope that people will see the human faces, in this case grandparents, and feel some empathy," Dagres said. "Perhaps enough to reach out to their representatives and express their disapproval of the ban or even sign a petition."