Deported Palestinian Harvard freshman says visa axed over friends’ social media
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Deported Palestinian Harvard freshman says visa axed over friends’ social media

Ismail Ajjawi of Lebanon claims US immigration officer searched his phone and computer for hours, grilled him over posts made by others

Illustrative: Travelers move through Logan International Airport in Boston January 28, 2015. (Elise Amendola/AP)
Illustrative: Travelers move through Logan International Airport in Boston January 28, 2015. (Elise Amendola/AP)

A Palestinian student who arrived in the United States on a scholarship to Harvard University said he was booted from the country by an airport immigration officer who complained about social media posts by his friends.

Ismail B. Ajjawi, 17, a Palestinian resident of Tyre, Lebanon, was forced to return home and is now working to have his canceled visa reissued so that he can enter the US and start his studies next week in Boston, the Harvard University newspaper The Crimson reported Tuesday.

In a written statement, Ajjawi said he was questioned for eight hours after he arrived at Boston’s Logan International Airport on Friday.

Immigration officers immediately took Ajjawi, and several other international students, away for questioning, he wrote. But while the others were released and allowed into the country, he was held and an immigration officer interrogated him about his religious practices, The Crimson reported.

Illustrative: Harvard University (Wikimedia Commons via JTA)

Officers took away his phone and laptop and examined them for five hours, after which the officer began to question him about his friends’ social media activity.

Ajjawi claimed a female immigration officer “started screaming at me” and challenged him that she found “political points of view that oppose the US” posted by social media friends.

He responded that he hasn’t made any political posts himself and shouldn’t be held responsible for what his friends write.

“I have not a single post on my timeline discussing politics,” Ajjawi wrote in his statement.

Nonetheless, the officer canceled his visa, forcing him to return to Lebanon.

University officials are hoping to resolve the issue before his classes begin on September 3, a spokesman said.

“The University is working closely with the student’s family and appropriate authorities to resolve this matter so that he can join his classmates in the coming days,” a spokesman wrote in an email to the paper.

Ajjawi’s scholarship was provided by AMIDEAST, a US non-profit organization. The group is now providing Ajjawi with legal assistance, the Crimson reported.

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