By Mennatallah Fouad Youssef
CAIRO: Bahraini political and Rights activist, Maryam Alkhawaja, was allowed into Egypt Monday after being held for over 12 hours at the Cairo International Airport, while another Palestinian journalist was deported to Gaza.
Palestinian Majed Abousalama arrived on the same flight as Alkhawaja. He was denied entry and deported to Gaza via a bus that takes off from Cairo International Airport to Rafah.
Upon approaching the passport control officer, Alkhawaja was informed that her name is on a blacklist and was told she would be deported.
“I arrived at 2:45 this morning and went to get a visa. I was using my Danish passport. The passport control officer started asking me questions about my job and where I was from,” Alkhawaja told Daily News Egypt in a phone interview on Monday.
“I told the officer that I was from Bahrain and not from Palestine which he insisted upon, and that I worked with NGOs. He replied with a smirk when I told him I was from the Bahraini revolution and that I was behind it.
“He didn’t like my reply when I told him that I worked with the Bahrain Center for Human Rights, because right after that he started saying that I will have to wait for a while before getting in, even though he had already stamped in my passport my entrance visa.”
When contacted by DNE, the Danish embassy in Cairo refused to comment. Alkhawaja said that the embassy representative informed her that she was blacklisted because of her work.
“I have criticized [the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces] before specially during the virginity test case and this could be a reason why they were not letting me in.”
A lawyer who assisted Alkhawaja in Cairo explained that the Danish embassy had sent two representatives but they were advising the activist to leave the country.
“The authorities’ decision to not let her in is illegal, because they had already stamped her entrance visa, and she was not blacklisted as they claimed,” said Amro Imam, lawyer with the Nazra for Feminist Studies, which is organizing a panel in which Alkhawaja was participating.
“If they had insisted on not letting her that would have held them legally accountable, because how could have they allowed someone blacklisted to get a visa?”
The Bahraini embassy in Cairo refused to comment on the issue.
The news of Alkhawaja’s detention sparked an online campaign in the early hours of Monday, with Egyptian activists calling for allowing her inside the country.
The said the military rulers in Egypt were appeasing the Bahraini authorities and the Gulf States; especially Saudi Arabia.
The Shia-led uprising in Bahrain has left 86 dead and over 3,000 injured since it started in February 2011. Saudi Arabia and the UAE contributed forces to the brutal crackdown by the Bahrain government, led by the Sunni minority.
“With Maryam being a symbol of the Bahraini revolt as well as her farther, this decision to blacklist her or not let her in is a political one; the authorities perceive her presence in the country as a threat,” said activist Noor Ayman Noor.
“Saudi Arabia is the biggest supporter of the Bahraini King in suppressing the revolt and essentially this leads us to believe that SCAF are appeasing Saudi Arabia by stopping such a symbol to come in the country as a favor,” he added.
Maryam Alkhawaji was born in Syria to then-exiled Abdulhadi Alkhawaji, who had been banned from Bahrain since the mid-1980s. At the age of two her family was granted political asylum in Denmark. Her father, who was later allowed back in Bahrain, is facing a life sentence imprisonment in a military court on the charge of “organizing and managing a terrorist organization.” He has been on hunger strike for more than 50 days.