Syrian activist barred from travel after UK seizes passport at Assad’s request

The Guardian reports: British authorities have confiscated the passport of a prominent Syrian critic of Bashar al-Assad at the request of the government in Damascus, effectively preventing her from travelling and blocking her work as an activist.

Zaina Erhaim, an award-winning journalist and campaigner based in Turkey, had her passport taken away by UK border officials when she landed at Heathrow airport. After more than an hour of questioning, they told her that the document had been reported stolen.

The complaint came from the government she has been campaigning against for years. “I expect to be harassed inside my country,’ Erhaim told the Observer. “I know that if I went home I would be killed, but now I find that Assad’s arm can even reach to the UK. This is a dictator pursuing a journalist.”

A receipt that Erhaim was given for the passport states: “Document reported as stolen.” Erhaim, who is travelling to the UK for an event with the BBC’s Kate Adie at the Kew literary festival, said it contained her name, photograph and fingerprint. Erhaim had previously used the passport without problems to travel to the UK in April, when she collected the Index on Censorship’s Freedom of Expression Journalism award for her work. She had also travelled on it without any problems across Europe. [Continue reading…]

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