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Palestinian Student at Harvard After Approval of US Visa

Ismail Ajjawi, photographed in his home near El Buss refugee camp, Lebanon. 2019 UNRWA Photo by Abeer
Ismail Ajjawi, photographed in his home near El Buss refugee camp, Lebanon. 2019 UNRWA Photo by Abeer
Palestinian Student at Harvard After Approval of US Visa
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A Palestinian student who was at first denied entry to the United States has been admitted to the country.

Ismail Ajjawi planned to attend Harvard University in Massachusetts.

Harvard’s student paper reported that he arrived at the university on Monday in time for the start of classes Tuesday.

A lawyer representing Ajjawi’s family released a statement to thank his supporters. The statement said, “We hope now that everyone can respect our and Ismail’s privacy and he can now simply focus on settling into College and his important class work.”

Last week, Ajjawi told The Harvard Crimson newspaper that U.S. federal agents detained him for eight hours at Boston’s airport. He said they searched his electronic devices and questioned him about his friends’ social media posts. They included “political points of view that oppose the U.S.,” he said in a statement.

Ajjawi wrote, “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.”

A U.S. Customs and Border Protection official, however, would not confirm the information. The official told The Associated Press (AP) that the decision to cancel Ajjawi’s visa was based on information discovered during an inspection. The official added, he can still try to reapply for a visa to enter the country.

Several Harvard student groups then organized a petition to support Ajjawi's admission to the U.S. The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees and the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education also called on the U.S. government to admit him.

AMIDEAST, a not-for-profit organization, awarded Ajjawi a scholarship to attend Harvard. The group said the U.S. Embassy in Beirut examined his case and reissued his visa.

Through their lawyer, Ajjawi’s family added, “We truly appreciate the efforts of so many individuals and officials in Lebanon, Washington, Massachusetts and at Harvard that have made it possible for our son Ismail Ajjawi to begin his studies at Harvard with his class.”

I'm Jonathan Evans.

Hai Do adapted this story for Learning English based on reporting from The Harvard Crimson and The Associated Press. George Grow was the editor.


Words in This Story

focus - v. to direct one's attention or effort at something

reapply - v. to formally ask for something again

petition - n. a written document that people sign to show that they want to do or change something

scholarship - n. an amount of money that is given to a student to help pay for education

reissue - v. to issue something again

appreciate - v. to be grateful for something