Prominent Tunisian writer and academic Amel Grami was deported from Egypt via Cairo Airport on Sunday, despite being officially invited to speak at a conference at the state-owned Library of Alexandria.
After her deportation, Grami wrote that she had been detained at Cairo Airport for more than 14 hours, and subsequently flown out of the country, after being told that she was “a threat to national security.”
In a post on her Facebook account, Grami added that she was not given any further information on why she had been labeled persona non grata.
Over the past three years, Grami had been a contributor to the privately owned Egyptian newspaper Al-Shorouk, writing several columns and op-eds regarding the revolution in Tunisia, the Arab Spring, political Islamism, terrorism, and means of countering terrorism. In her writings, Grami has been critical of Tunisia’s Islamists and has sought to address means of confronting religious fundamentalism.
The Tunisian academic wrote that she felt mistreated at Cairo Airport, with security personnel detaining her during the course of a lengthy interrogation, following her around the airport, and temporarily confiscating her passport, without explaining to her why she was being denied entry into Egypt.
According to Grami, she had traveled to Egypt after having received an official invitation from the Library of Alexandria, where she was due to deliver a presentation.
Quoting Egyptian rights lawyer Mohamed Abdel Aziz, independent Masr al-Arabia news portal reported that “airport authorities may have lists on which certain individuals are banned from entering the country, there are also legal or security reasons” behind the denial of their entry. “However, in this case, security officials did not specify the reasons behind the denial of Grami’s entrance,” Abdel Aziz added, rendering this denial of entry “illegal.”
The case of Grami’s detention at Cairo Airport was publicized by Egyptian human rights lawyer Khaled Mansour. On his Facebook page, Mansour wrote that Grami “fell into the hands of those who jail people, who chase after people, who pursue and slander them, just because of their thoughts and opinions.”
Since the ouster of former President Mohamed Morsi in 2013, there have been several other incidents where academics, human rights activists, and political figures have been denied entry into Egypt without any clearly specified reasoning and have subsequently been deported.
In August 2013, journalist and Yemeni Nobel laureate Tawakkol Karman was denied entry into Egypt upon her arrival in Cairo Airport, and then deported. Karman’s name was reportedly included on a list of individuals banned from entering the country at the request of an unnamed Egyptian political authority.
Two senior members of Human Rights Watch – Kenneth Roth and Sarah Leah Whitson – were also denied entry into Egypt in August 2014, and deported via Cairo Airport. The two had sought to present their findings regarding the forced dispersal of protest camps in support of Morsi.
In March 2014, American women’s rights activist Medea Benjamin also was detained at Cairo Airport, reportedly had her arm broken, and was subsequently deported. From the US-based group, Code Pink, Benjamin had sought to enter the Gaza Strip via Egyp, to support an anti-war campaign in the Palestinian enclave.
Code Pink reported that Benjamin was locked-up, physically abused, and assaulted by security forces in the airport, resulting in bone fractures, bleeding, and torn ligaments. Speaking to the Associated Press, an Egyptian airport official denied that Benjamin was subject to any form of mistreatment.
In October of that year, a project manager for the Danish Institute for Human Rights, Ashraf Mikhail, was deported from Cairo Airport. The state-owned Al-Ahram news portal reported that Mikhail’s deportation was attributed to his involvement in “suspicious” training sessions for Egyptian youths.