The U.S. has banned a Syrian man behind the Oscarnominated documentary The White Helmets from entering the country, BBC reports. Khaled Khatib, 21, who did most of the filming for the British documentary film, will not be able to attend the 89th Academy Awards ceremony due to the travel ban imposed on Syrian nationals by the Trump administration.
The White Helmets is a 40-minute documentary showing how members of the Syrian Civil Defense risk their lives everyday to rescue and save civilians. The documentary film has been nominated in the short documentary category and is considered to be one of the favorites to win the award. Khaled Khatib had expressed his joy over the film’s nomination on Twitter, writing, “The white helmets documentary produced by @netflix was nominated for Oscar!! I’m so proud to have filmed this film and for this nomination.” But due to Trump’s travel ban, he will not be able to attend the award ceremony.
— Khaled Khatib (@995Khaled) January 24, 2017
Khaled is a part of the The White Helmets group himself. They are called so because they wear white helmets while working on the rescue missions. The group operates in parts of rebel-controlled Syria. Syria has been going through a hellish civil war for the past few years. Almost half a million people have been killed while 11 million have had to flee their homes.
Khaled helped film the organization’s day-to-day operations for the Netflix documentary. The 21-year old was supposed to be flying to Los Angeles this week for the 89th Academy Awards. But before he was even able to get on his plane in Turkey, U.S. officials denied his permission to fly to the country, citing “derogatory information” about him. “Derogatory information” is a generic term that U.S. officials use to describe anything from passport irregularities to terror connections.
Khaled joined the White Helmets in 2013. He says that he really liked what the journalists were doing there in Syria, so he decided to volunteer for the White Helmets in order to show the world what it was like for members of the group to cope with what was going on in Syria. After just two weeks of volunteering, Khaled’s team helped rescue a child from under the rubble of a recently bombed building. He recorded the rescue mission and put it on YouTube. The video got a lot of views and that, Khaled says, motivated him to keep doing what he was doing.
“It’s easy for anyone to kill someone, but it’s very hard and very difficult to save lives.”
Khaled spoke with CNN regarding the issue.
“If we win this award, it will show people across Syria that people around the world support them. It will give courage to every volunteer who wakes up every morning to run towards bombs. If I cannot enter the US, I will not give up: we know that we have many friends in US, that there are people that share our humanitarian values. I look forward to meeting them all one day.”
At the moment, the Department of Homeland Security has only issued a simple comment regarding the matter.
“A valid travel document is required for travel to the United States.”
This isn’t the first incident involving the Trump administration’s travel ban and a high-profile personnel. Earlier this month, immigration officials in Florida reportedly detained the son of the late boxing legend Muhammad Ali and asked him, “Are you Muslim?” Muhammad Ali Jr. holds a U.S. passport and has no criminal records. Another incident involved an Australian children’s book author Mem Fox, who was detained by border control at Los Angeles Airport and questioned for two hours. Mem has suggested that she may never return to the United States.
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