Palestine Student Comes Back to Harvard After Being Barred in US


A student from Palestine came to join the Harvard University, but was permitted to enter the United States after ten days. Ismail Ajjawi was allowed on Monday, after being turned back at the airport in Boston last month, reaching the university in time before the start of classes.

The 17-year-old’s case was reviewed at the United States Embassy in Beirut, which reissued his visa, according to Amideast, group that sponsored him.

On August 23, the Palestinian student landed at Logan International Airport in Boston, where he was denied the entry permit by the immigration officials. Ajjawi had received the visa before travelling, but was objected for his friends’ social media posts, he told The Harvard Crimson, the student newspaper.

While the incident caused an uproar amongst free speech advocates, it became an outcry for the Harvard officials. The university raised concerns that the Trump administration is creating intricate conditions for foreign students and scholars looking to enroll in the country. It also underlined that it could also alienate the ones who look forward to create positive impressions on the American society.

A resident of Tyre, Lebanon, Ajjawi claims that he is apolitical and wants to become a doctor. On Tuesday, his lawyer Albert Mokhiber described him as a refugee from Palestine, who attended the United Nations schools in refugee camps of Lebanon.

The Harvard student told The Crimson that his phone and laptop were searched at the airport. He said that the agent yelled at him and stated that “she found people posting political points of view that oppose the U.S. on my friend list”. To this he said that its irrational to held him responsible for other peoples’ posts.

Ten days back there was no hope for the boy from Palestine to come back to the US, but Mokhiber said that Harvard and Amideast sponsoring agency together made that possible. “The anxiety was beyond belief for everybody,” he said. “Thank God it all worked out.”

An American non-profit cultural exchange and education program founded in 1951, Amideast credited the rallying cry over the case with helping Ajjawi regain his visa. “We express our gratitude to the many voices in the media and the public at large, both in the United States and abroad, who recognized the injustice of what happened to Ismail and voiced their concerns in traditional media and on social media,” the Amideast statement said.

Parents of the Palestine expressed relief that Ajjawi was finally able to begin studies at Harvard, and issued a statement thanking those who fought for the reinstatement of his visa. Besides, they also asked for privacy of their son.

College and university officials across the country have been increasingly raising concerns that international student and scholars seeking visa frequently face unexpected denials and long delays.

President of the Harvard, Lawrence Bacow said that Ismail Ajjawi’s case was the tip of the iceberg.

“Since May, the obstacles facing individuals ensnared in the nation’s visa and immigration process have only grown,” he said. “Various international students and scholars eager to establish lives here on our campus find themselves the subject of scrutiny and suspicion in the name of national security, and they are reconsidering the value of joining our community in the face of disruptions and delays.”

On Monday, Ajjawi was seen in his class photo with fellow Harvard students, alongside Bacow. Although the authorities finally permitted the Palestine student, it took days of efforts and public appeals to reverse the unreasonable implementation of the Trump administration’s procedures.

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