Ismail Ajjawi, Harvard University Student From Lebanon, Barred From Entering The United States

The 17-year-old student claims U.S. officials questioned him about his friends' posts on social media and his religious practices.

Harvard University's Kirkland House is seen on October 10, 2003 in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
William B. Plowman / Getty Images

The 17-year-old student claims U.S. officials questioned him about his friends' posts on social media and his religious practices.

A 17-year-old student from Lebanon, who was slated to attend Harvard University, was denied entry into the United States when his flight arrived in Boston, according to officials at the school, per a report from NBC News on Tuesday.

Ismail Ajjawi, who was selected as a member of Harvard’s incoming freshman class – the class of 2023 – was deported by U.S. officials not long after he arrived at Boston Logan International Airport in Massachusetts on Friday, according to Harvard University’s student newspaper The Harvard Crimson.

According to the student publication, Ajjawi, who residents in Tyre, Lebanon and is Palestinian, was questioned by immigration officials for hours after his entry. He also allegedly had his phone and computer searched by U.S. officials, according to a note written by the 17-year-old and obtained by The Harvard Crimson.

Harvard said that it was trying to resolve the situation before classes were slated to begin after the Labor Day weekend, on September 3, according to The Harvard Crimson.

The newspaper reported that immigration officials reportedly questioned Ajjawi about statements that his friends had made on their social media accounts, though Ajjawi reported that he told officials, who he said screamed at him, that he had not interacted with their posts.

“I responded that I have no business with such posts and that I didn’t like, [s]hare or comment on them and told her that I shouldn’t be held responsible for what others post,” he wrote, according to The Harvard Crimson. “I have no single post on my timeline discussing politics.”

The student also claimed that immigration officers questioned him about his religion and religious practices in Lebanon during his eight-hour stay in the airport before he was deported.

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Per the student newspaper, Ajjawi was in contact with both university officials, who deal with issues surrounding student visas, and AMIDEAST, an organization that provided the Palestinian student with a scholarship to study in the United States and was now providing Ajjawi with legal assistance.

According to the AMIDEAST website, AMIDEAST is a non-profit organization that works to offer education and development in the Middle East and North African region.

According to the report from NBC News, U.S. Customs and Border Protection said they deemed the 17-year-old unfit to enter the country.

The Harvard Crimson said that Ajjawi’s situation is uncommon but not unheard of for the university. Following what was effectively a travel ban for several Muslim-majority nations in 2017 from the Trump administration, four students were barred entry from the country. Over several months, though, the students eventually made their way to the Boston college, per the newspaper.