Politics & Government

Clemson grad from Iran returns to SC after being detained by Trump ban

Nazanin Zinouri, 29, is greeted at the Greenville-Spartanburg International Airport in Greer, S.C., with kisses from her dog Dexter and well-wishers holding signs reading "Welcome Home" on Monday, Feb. 6, 2017. Zinouri, an Iranian engineer and Clemson University graduate, had been unable to return to the United States because of the executive order President Donald Trump signed that limited travel to the U.S. from seven Muslim-majority countries.
Nazanin Zinouri, 29, is greeted at the Greenville-Spartanburg International Airport in Greer, S.C., with kisses from her dog Dexter and well-wishers holding signs reading "Welcome Home" on Monday, Feb. 6, 2017. Zinouri, an Iranian engineer and Clemson University graduate, had been unable to return to the United States because of the executive order President Donald Trump signed that limited travel to the U.S. from seven Muslim-majority countries. AP

The South Carolina woman whose trip home left her in a week-long international limbo has returned home.

Nazanin Zinouri, an Iranian citizen and Clemon University graduate who had been unable to return to her Upstate home because of President Trump's travel ban, returned Monday to South Carolina.

Zinouri touched down at the Greenville-Spartanburg International Airport about 12:30 p.m. Monday afternoon, where she was met by friends, co-workers and her dog, Dexter.

Dexter jumped to lick Zinouri’s face as she smiled before talking about the interest and support sparked by her plight.

“It’s exactly what got me through those two weeks that were horrible and very difficult to deal with,” Zinouri said. “If I didn’t see all the support and these people here trying to help me, I don’t know how I would’ve handled the situation.”

But Zinouri’s return was tinged with the sadness of leaving her family behind in Tehran. She is unsure when she might be able to see them again.

“My mom never cries in front of me at the airport, but no one could stop her from crying,” Zinouri said. “She didn’t know what’s going to happen to me.”

Zinouri had taken an ill-timed trip home to visit family in her home country of Iran in January.

While she was gone, President Donald Trump issued an executive order that barred citizens of Iran and six other Muslim-majority countries from entering the United States. Zinouri was taken off a U.S.-bound flight home on Jan. 27 in Dubai and sent back to Iran.

Zinouri initially had her work-related visa to enter the United States revoked by the president’s order, along with more than 60,000 others. But a judge’s order Friday paved the way for Zinouri to return Sunday, via Boston on a re-instated visa.

Zinouri received an outpouring of support in her quest to get back from her work family at the Clemson-based tech start-up Modjoul. The company’s founder Eric Martinez set up a GoFundMe page to pay for the expected legal costs to get Zinouri back into the country.

“She has her dog, but she didn’t have family,” Martinez said. “At the office, we just decided that if we didn’t fight for her, nobody else would fight for her.”

Now that she is back in the Upstate, Zinouri plans to ease back into her life in the United States.

“I just want to have a nice relaxing nap with my dog,” she said. “Go on a walk with him, just catch up with neighbors and all the other ones from back home that have been helping me with the whole situation.”

Michael Burns with the Greenville News contributed. Bristow Marchant: 803-771-8405, @bristowathome, @buzzatthestate

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