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Sunday, September 19, 2021

Qatari-Iraqi family reunites after teen is detained in the US

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A Qatar high school student and her father were detained and handcuffed at a New York airport late last month after a new travel ban on visitors from certain countries was put into place.

The ban has since been suspended, but caused chaos and confusion at airports around the US for several days.

Since then, several stories have come out detailing mistreatment of travelers from the seven-Muslim majority countries on the banned list – Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen.

26 hours in an airport

In the video, she introduces herself as Iman Bakir Sudki.

The Iraqi national and her parents left Hamad International Airport (HIA) to go to New York’s JFK airport in January, unaware of the new rules.

Full of excitement about her trip, Sudki filmed the beginning of her journey, including scenes of her ride to the airport, as well as shopping and getting a manicure at HIA.

She continued to film throughout the flight and after the family’s arrival at JFK, but then the screen goes dark.

The rest of her experience – being detained at the airport for 26 hours – is narrated through a series of statements written in white text on the screen.

Handcuffed

Sudki explains that after a long wait at customs, her mother – who is Qatari – is told that she can enter the US.

But she must leave her Iraqi husband and daughter behind.

Video still

Sudki and her father are told they will need to wait more than 12 hours for the next Qatar Airways flight, which will return them to Doha.

Her mom opts to wait in the airport with them, but just before the flight is due to take off that evening, she is told to leave.

Video still

Afterwards, Sudki – a minor – said she was handcuffed and moved to another terminal, before being told that she and her family may not have to fly back to Qatar after all.

Hours later, the pair are finally told they will be able to enter the US after all, and are greeted by Americans holding supportive placards in the arrivals terminal.

Legal assistance

It remains unclear why Sudki and her family were reunited. They have not spoken publicly about what happened, and their lawyer did not return a request for comment.

But a US firm did file a legal request for Sudki and her father’s release on Jan. 28.

JFK International Airport

Signed by her mother, the document stated that the family had been awarded Diversity Immigrant Visas to enter the US last August.

Under that program, 50,000 permanent resident visas are made available each year to people from countries deemed to have low rates of immigration to the US.

Thus, the family’s green card status may have helped them enter the US.

Many other families were not so lucky, and there have been several reports of other travelers being sent back to HIA.

However, the US courts have so far found the travel ban to be unconstitutional so it remains on hold for now.

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