Coronavirus: Iranian students in Turkey left in limbo

The decision to close Turkey’s border with Iran due to the coronavirus outbreak has left Iranians pursuing an education in the country in a kind of limbo.

"I haven’t seen my family for 10 months. When the borders were closed, I was on the fence about whether to stay or go," Fatemeh Hasanpour Jannati said at a cafe in Ankara, sipping coffee.

Though Jannati looked cheerful, her thoughts kept returning to her family in the northwestern Iranian city of Tabriz, around 1,500 kilometers (930 miles) from Ankara, Turkey’s capital.

Jannati bought a bus ticket home three weeks ago and was scheduled to leave last week.

"But due to the restrictions I had to cancel the trip and got stuck here in Ankara," said the doctoral student at Gazi University, who had planned to bring her mother and sister to settle in Ankara. She even bought an apartment in the city.

"This outbreak destroyed my entire plan and my family's plan," she said, voicing uncertainty about when the border would open again.

Amid rising numbers of coronavirus infections in Iran, Turkey last month closed its land borders and air travel from its neighbor to the southeast.

"If something happened to my family, I would go to Iran," said Jannati. "People in Iran aren’t going out, they quarantined themselves."

- Closing border ‘right decision’

Jannati was echoing the feelings of 7,000 students in Turkey from Iran, one of the countries hardest hit by the virus, having claimed than 120 lives there.

But for Fatemeh Baghai, closing the border was the "right decision" because "people’s lives are at stake.”

"I felt very bad and anxious about the outbreak in Iran in the first days," said Baghai, who hails from the northwestern city of Khoy and is a second-year nursing student at Ankara’s Hacettepe University.

Due to the conditions in her country, Iranian students “face negative perceptions in the eyes of some local people," she added.

"Sometimes the sadness I feel over people's manner in Turkey due to this issue is almost unbearable," she said.

Recently at the university, she said, "A friend of mine wanted to sit next to me, but other students warned her about the coronavirus and asked her whether she feared being infected."

-‘Millions of lives’

Kamyab Shirazi, an Iranian student in his twenties, accused Tehran of not taking "necessary precautions" when the outbreak first emerged.

Even though his mother was planning to visit this week but could not due to the closed border, Shirazi praised Turkey for "doing a great job of closing the borders with Iran."

"Because this isn’t only an issue for me or my family, it’s about millions of lives," he said.

Most people in Iran are under self-quarantine in their homes and rarely venture outside as they once did.

In an effort to contain the virus, Tehran has taken several measures, including closing all schools and higher education institutions, cancelling sports events nationwide, and banning government officials from leaving the country.

Globally, the coronavirus death toll has crossed 3,300, with about 100,00 confirmed cases in 87 countries, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

Source: Anadolu Agency