What Mr. Trump’s Ban on Citizens from Syria, Iraq, Iran, Yemen, Libya, Somalia and Sudan means for Our Students

by Monica Vidili

MMEG President

World leaders and prominent figures have condemned US President Donald Trump's temporary ban on citizens from seven Muslim-majority countries from entering the United States as divisive, illegal, insulting and discriminatory. Mr. Trump signed an executive order on Friday Jan 27, 2017 barring citizens from Syria, Iraq, Iran, Yemen, Libya, Somalia and Sudan from entering the country for 90 days, and suspending the admission of all refugees for 120 days. The order also indefinitely bans entry of anyone fleeing from war-torn Syria, CNN reports.

Margaret McNamara Education Grants (MMEG) provides education grants to exceptional women from developing countries wishing to acquire further skills and a higher education degree that will benefit the lives of women and children. For 35 years, we have been supporting exceptional women who are involved in Peace and Justice, Social Work, Medical Research, Agriculture all over the world, including war-torn Africa, the Middle East, and Colombia.

Mr. Trump’s ban will affect many of our students coming to the US and most particularly Syrian refugees to whom we are ready to provide a full scholarship in partnership with Jusoor, a US-based NGO.

In mid 2016, the Board of Directors agreed to ramp up efforts to relieve the plights of refugees and contribute to elevating the status of refugee women -- who during hard times are often considered a lower investment for families, or can be victims of exploitation and violence.

Maryam Sadat Sharifian (Iran), 2015 MMEG Grantee

MMEG is proud to have provided grants to women from countries currently being banned from entry into the United States.

Two years ago we welcomed to the MMEG Forum at the World Bank our grant recipient Maryam Sadat Sharifian from Iran. When we financed Maryam, she was completing her doctoral dissertation on the “Impact of Trauma upon the Resilience of Syrian Teachers in War Zone and Refugee Camps”. Her university referees wrote that:

“[She is] an excellent scholar with a passion to impact the lives of women and children in developing countries through education” 


“Children’s right advocate with outstanding leadership skills and potential of making a positive difference in the lives of women and children”.

Maryam already had an impressive record in this area: she was the Recipient of ACEI’s Elizabeth Braithwaite Student Leadership Award, 2013 and of New York State and Graduate Student Employees Union Professional Development Awards, 2013. Previously, she had taught children of Afghan immigrants in Iran, who had no legal right to education. Her career plan was to work as a professor at the University of Tehran (Iran) and establish an Early Childhood Research Center.

We all immediately loved her professional project and succumbed to her determination and her smile. 

Most of our grant recipients aim to acquire knowledge and leadership skills through tertiary education and return to their country of origin (when not in fear of persecution), because they want to make a difference in their communities and countries.

Mr. Trump’s executive order is certainly affecting some of our current year applicants, not to mention the American higher education system; the order curtails a pool of foreigners who contribute to “Making America Great” and who regard education in the US as among the best in the world. His executive order affects us all, because it tarnishes the American dream of an open, empowering society.

For MMEG, whose mission is to empower women through education grants, it may imply a long term shift focus more on our overseas programs.