SURREY NOW EXCLUSIVE: Two sweethearts, Iranian by birth, didn’t let Trump’s travel ban prevent them from getting engaged. They just had to get creative – and made it happen at the Peace Arch monument.
Love found a way.
Lesser men might have faltered, but Nader Saber did not. He refused to let the world’s most controversial travel ban in recent history stop him from taking a chance to put a ring on his sweetheart Donya Soleiman’s finger, on neutral ground, at the Peace Arch monument.
(Donya runs toward her Nader at the Peace Arch border. Photos by Tom Zytaruk)
Nader, 45, is a railway signal engineer who flew 14 hours from his home in Gothenburg, Sweden to Vancouver to see Donya. She, in turn, drove six hours from her home in Portland, Oregon to see him.
They’d met through his uncle, communicated online and fell in love.
Trouble is, the world’s longest undefended border has been keeping them apart, on account of U.S. President Donald Trump’s ban on travellers from seven Muslim-majority nations. This includes Iran, where both Nader and Donya were born.
While the Trump administration and the U.S. courts hash out the legality of the spectacularly controversial Jan. 27 executive order, enforcement has been suspended but the final chapter has yet to be written on whether the ban will stay in place. Meanwhile Nader’s awaiting a visa, and Donya, a passport. The travel ban has created a perfect storm for the sweethearts, who are determined not to become a star-crossed couple.
Last Friday was their first daytime meeting, in the flesh. The very first time they met, ever, was the previous night, in the wind and driving rain, underneath the Peace Arch monument.
“They gave to me hard time, just checking my situation and everything. After that they said sorry, and you can go,” Donya later explained.
That Friday afternoon, on bended knee, in the blasting winter wind and slush, Nader proposed to Donya and happily she said yes.
“I love him,” she beamed. “He came from far and he had so problem until here. I’m happy.”
Before Donya arrived at the Peace Arch, Nader cut a solitary picture, standing against the wind in his blue parka, cold red hands gripping a dozen roses, his “Happy Valentine Day” and “I love you” balloons dragging sideways on tight strings.
He admitted he was “very nervous.”
“It’s my destiny to going up the obstacle,” Nader said, in broken English. “Everything is against me and against us, but we trying hard to do it, and nothing can stop us.”
Suddenly, he turned his head.
“She’s coming,” he beamed.
Proposal made and accepted, Nader joked that it was their “Valentine gift from White Rock to White House.
“To propose at the border is not usual,” he smiled. “Maybe we come here to marry us under the border.”
At that point, we left the fiances to themselves.
“I don’t like I separate, he separate. This is sad,” Donya said, in parting.
“I wish everybody happy from today to Valentine Day.”
She would return to her hotel in Blaine, and Nader to his room at the Ocean Beach Promenade Hotel in White Rock.
Donya had to return to Portland on Monday and Nader flew back to Sweden today (Tuesday).
“I want that she move to Sweden,” Nader said. “I’m very glad to be in Sweden, it is a very democratic land and very peaceful and very kind people in Sweden, as like as Canada too.”
A few days before the couple met in person, you could almost hear Nader’s hands wringing over the phone.
“It’s very difficult, what can I do?” he said of the couple’s predicament, from his room at the hotel.
Gordy Sangha, general manager at the Ocean Promenade, took pity.
“He’s going where his heart is taking him,” Sangha remarked. “It’s quite touching, not about religion, background — it’s purely a story about love.”