US President Donald Trump’s travel ban has affected tens of thousands of travellers, including the five-year old detained at an airport and the Glaswegian couple blocked from returning home via an American airport.
One of those affected is Sham Murad, a frequent visitor to the US who is based in Birmingham, and arrived in Britain 12 years ago as a refugee from Iraq, one of the seven countries affected by the ban. She arrived with her mother aged ten, and has lived here since, obtaining a degree in international relations and development from the University of Birmingham.
She also has friends across the US and a particular love for Brooklyn, which she fears she may no longer be able to visit.
Sham found the ban particularly troubling after the damage caused by the Iraq War. Seeing the headlines felt like a “double-edged sword”, she said, as “now I can’t even visit the country that has supposedly ‘liberated’ me. Like many others around the world I was outraged.”
Sham noted a similarity between the American Midwest and the UK West Midlands – places that had once been industrial powerhouses and with areas now blighted by poverty and a lack of inward investment, while low-quality, low-pay jobs have gone to new migrant labourers – a cause of the rise of anti-migrant politicians like Donald Trump.
She has fought poverty on her doorstep, setting up Urban Roots (pictured), a project which collects essential items for Birmingham’s homeless population.
“Living in the UK and visiting America I have learnt little about democracy and more about poverty”, she says, explaining how a minority have managed to capture public debate with “policies that harm the same migrants which build our countries.”
The travel ban – an example of such a policy – is supposedly there to keep people safe. But not one Iraqi national has committed an act of terror in the United States. Nor have any refugees. A blanket ban on refugees, and a ban on migration from Muslim majority countries, will divide communities while doing nothing to protect the US.
Sham has now joined those across the UK protesting Trump’s policies and rhetoric attacking refugees, Muslims and ethnic minorities. Thousands gathered across Britain a few weeks ago, and more will do so on February 20th. She is also due to address an event with the University of Westminster in March to discuss the role women have played in keeping communities together during war, and the role they will play in rebuilding Iraq.
“I’ve been protesting since I was 10 against injustice, and will continue to do so until injustice ends, or until I die”, she says.