News / Edmonton

In Edmonton, a love story ruined by Donald Trump

She is in Edmonton, he is in California. Both are pursuing advanced degrees. Both are unsure how they will see each other again.

Saghar Sobhani.


Saghar Sobhani.

Donald Trump has effectively and suddenly canceled Valentine’s Day plans for an Iranian couple, one who lives in Edmonton and the other in California.

Saghar Sobhani has spent about a quarter of her short life searching for a place to welcome her and her family—all of them Baha'i—a religious minority in Iran, the country where she was born and was forced to flee.

In an Edmonton coffee shop Sunday, Sobhani, 22, reflected on the joy she felt when she, her sister and parents were able to find refuge in this city nearly four years ago. That has turned to anxiety now that Trump has used an executive order to effectively ban people born in Iran from entering the United States. 

But what makes this so personal for Sobhani is that her boyfriend Sahab—who was also born in Iran and forced to flee—now lives in California, where he studies aerospace engineering. 

"I am in shock," Sobhani, who is studying finance and commerce at the University of Alberta, said. "This should change. Right now, everything is confused."


Sobhani said she and her boyfriend met as refugees living in the Turkish city of Denizli, where she and her family had fled after religious persecution in Iran, including, she said, her mother being jailed.

About four years ago, the two were forced to part in order to find more permanent refuge—he moved to California to be with his family, and she came to Canada, where she's now a student and also part of the Iranian Students' Association of the University of Alberta.

The plan, Sobhani said, was for the two to pick either Canada or the U.S. to settle, once it became clear who could find work. But that's all in the air now, she said.

Though Canada's immigration minister, Ahmed Hussen, said Sunday that Canadian permanent residents from seven Muslim-majority countries targeted by a U.S. travel ban will still be able to cross the border — and Sobhani has residency — she said she's still scared to risk it.

"Trump can change his mind tomorrow," she said.

If her boyfriend leaves the U.S., right now he won't be able to return to his home. 

"We technically can't see each other," she said, smiling despite her obvious deep frustration.

But she hasn't lost hope that this is just a blip and that normalcy and reason will return. "I believe in the American people to do something," Sobhani said.

* This story updates a previous version with information on rules for Canadians from Muslim-majority countries targeted by a U.S. travel ban 

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