On Wednesday, November 28, our host Jan Miyasaki speaks with Cora Currier, an investigative reporter at ProPublica, about her latest piece: “Why the U.S. Won’t Allow a Dying Iranian Sociologist to Join His Family.” Iranian sociologist Dr. Rahmatollah Sedigh Sarvestani, who is suffering from terminal cancer, wishes to join his family in the U.S., but is unable to because his visa request was denied. The rejection was due to “activity relating to espionage or sabotage,” a claim to which the family is shocked. It was only in the 1970s that the doctor was involved in pro-Iranian demonstrations; since then, he has actually voiced his protest against the government. It is uncertain as to why Dr. Sarvestani’s visa has been denied at this point, since he has been allowed into the U.S. since the 1970s.
Cora has been conducting research, examining Dr. Sarvestani’s activities since the 1990s. She explains, “In the 70’s he was political, and participated in pro-Khomeni/anti-Shah demonstrations. The group that he belonged to, the Muslim Students Association Persian Speaking Group, was a group that was watched closely by FBI officials and likely still is. So that’s one area that could be a red flag on his record. In the more recent years in Iran, he has turned very critical of the administration of the Iranian movement… he kept a blog that was openly critical. In Iran he was almost found too pro-Western.” Cora explains that she is searching for the red flags that could have prompted the visa rejection, but the actual reason is still a mystery.
She says, “From my perspective as a journalist, this is a story that still has a lot of unanswered questions, but what seems clear about it is that there is a systemic issue here, in which we don’t know on what grounds somebody is being denied entry.”
Read Cora Currier’s article at ProPublica here.
Listen to the entire interview here: