On Feb. 3, the Trump administration attempted to ban Syrians from entering the United States, along with individuals from six other Muslim-majority countries. One week later, a panel of federal judges struck down the executive order.
Tonight, the Department of Homeland Security blocked a Syrian man who works to draw attention to the plight of his country’s civil war from entering the country.
Khaled Khatib, the 21-year-old cinematographer for the Oscar-nominated documentary “White Helmets” was not allowed to board his flight to from Istanbul to Los Angeles for the Academy Awards.
He was stopped by US officials who said they had uncovered “derogatory information” about him.
According to the Associated Press, “derogatory information” can mean anything from terrorist connections to a simple passport irregularity.
Khatib, along with fellow White Helmet Raed al-Saleh, were granted visas to attend the Oscars. Nevertheless, when asked to comment, Dept. of Homeland Security spokesperson Gillian Christensen said, “a valid travel document is required for travel to the United States.”
After 3days at airport, not allowed to travel to #oscars2017 - had US visa - but passport not accepted. Sad, but important work to do here.— Khaled Khatib (@995Khaled) February 25, 2017
“White Helmets” is one of five nominees for Best Short Documentary. The 40-minute film, currently streaming on Netflix, tells the story of the eponymous group of first responders that risk their lives to rescue citizens from the rubble in the aftermath of airstrikes.
Nearly 400,000 Syrians have died since the outbreak of conflict in 2011. There are just under 5 million Syrian refugees, half of them children.
Khatib’s denial comes hours after it was revealed that immigration authorities reportedly detained Muhammed Ali, Jr., son of the boxing legend Muhammed Ali, at Fort-Lauderdale Hollywood International Airport on Feb. 7. Ali was held for hours and asked questions like, “Where did you get your name from?” and “Are you Muslim?”
At the Golden Globe Awards, Meryl Streep gave a powerful speech upon accepting the Cecile B. DeMille Award, in which she criticized Trump and supported America’s multicultural identity. The Grammy Awards, too, saw political statements from Paris Jackson, Laverne Cox, Katy Perry and A Tribe Called Quest.
In advance of Sunday’s award ceremony, the directors of the five films nominated for Best Foreign Language Film released a joint statement in which they expressed dismay at what they see as a “climate of fanaticism and nationalism” in the US.
“The fear generated by dividing us into genders, colors, religions and sexualities as a means to justify violence destroys the things that we depend on,” the statement read. “Human rights are not something you have to apply for. They simply exist for everybody.”
The Academy Awards were already expected to be politically charged. Barring Khatib has given it a head start.