The refusal of the United States to allow entry to Iranian vocalist Alireza Ghorbani was probably due to his having been in Iran’s Revolutionary Guards.
The Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) has been listed by the United States since 2019 as a ‘foreign terrorist organization,’ a designation otherwise reserved for non-state bodies. Ghorbani, a Canadian resident, was travelling Friday to perform at a concert marking Noruz (Nowruz), Iranian New Year, at Costa Mesa’s Segerstrom Center, California, Saturday when he was questioned by agents at a Toronto airport and denied entry to the US.
“He got on his flight, sat on his seat and some [US immigration] officers got on the flight and took him out,” Alireza Ardekani, executive director of Los Angeles-area nonprofit Farhang (culture) Foundation, joint host of the event, told the Los Angeles Times.
“They interrogated him for nearly four hours and eventually told him his visa was going to be canceled and he could no longer travel to the US,” Ardekani said Tuesday, adding that he had learned that Ghorbani’s denial of travel likely stemmed from the 49-year-old’s service decades earlier in the IRGC.
The Iranian Canadian Congress (ICC) in a statement on Twitter said it was concerned at Ghorbani's detention and interrogation and had brought the issue of the US refusing entry to Iranian-Canadians conscripted by the IRGC to the attention of Canadian government officials on many occasions.
"We continue our efforts to end discriminatory behavior against our community," the statement said. While Canadian permanent residents may need a non-immigrant visa to enter the US, the US State Department stipulates that “members of a designated FTO, if they are aliens, are inadmissible to and, in certain circumstances, removable from the United States.”
The IRGC is part of the Iranian Armed Forces, which also includes the ‘regular’ Army and Law Enforcement, all under the overall command of Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei. The three branches each includes young men serving a 21-month compulsory military service
Around one-fourth of IRGC's 190,0000 are conscripts and Ghorbani, who like many other young men do military service after graduating from high school, was probably assigned to the IRGC when drafted three decades ago.
Masih Fouladi, deputy director of the Los Angeles chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, told the Los Angeles Times, that the case illustrated a wider worry for Iranians in north America.
“They may have served 20, 25 or 30 years ago, and many of them may have served in clerical roles, nothing that had anything to do with combat,” he said. “And now they’re facing obstacles to residency status… I think [the designation] was intended to marginalize Iran’s government, but the truth it is has really impacted Americans here who identify as Iranian.”
Ghorbani has performed in many countries including with the Vancouver Opera Orchestra in 2019. Among international awards, he took the silver medal of the Global Music Awards in 2020 for outstanding achievement. Singer Sina Sarlak filled in for Ghorbani Saurday, performing “Ey Iran!”