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US researcher denied entry to Egypt, deported after 'humiliation'

Ada Petiwala was deported and banned from future entries to Egypt [AFP]

Date of publication: 28 May, 2016

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An American researcher was denied entry to Egypt and banned from future entries following interrogation, detention, and "humiliating" and "inhumane" treatment at Cairo International Airport.

An American researcher was refused entry to Egypt following "interrogation, detention, and inhumane treatment" at Cairo International Airport.

Ada Petiwala, who flew to Cairo from France with her Egyptian husband, was also banned from entering the country as she was told she posed a problem for "national security".

In a Facebook post published on Friday, Petiwala explained how she was detained and her passport confiscated, even after she had it stamped by the passport control office.

"I was asked about my many prior visits to Egypt. The interrogator did not understand, or seem to believe, the facts I gave," she said, "that I was a 2013-2014 Center for Arabic Study Abroad scholarship at AUC and the year after I worked at Townhouse gallery."

"I told these truths knowing full well that there is sensitivity and surveillance surrounding every single one of the institutions I have been affiliated with," she added.

Earlier this year, Cairo's Townhouse art gallery and the adjacent Rawabet theatre were raided by a cohort of 20 representatives of government agencies, including the National Security Agency.

After questioning employees, confiscating computers, photocopying IDs, and detaining everyone for a few hours, the employees were released and the venues shut down.

The raid came as part of a foreboding crackdown on some of downtown Cairo's most well-known and active art spaces - that happened to not be supported by any government bodies.

"I repeated again and again that the primary reason for my trip to Egypt was to spend time with my husband, whom I only can now see during my breaks from school," Petiwala continued.

"I was naive to think that they would believe that I have been waiting months and months to see my husband, that I spent my entire semester planning for the time I would have with him in the country he was born, the country where we fell in love, the country where half my life now is - or was."

I was naive to think that they would believe that I have been waiting months and months to see my husband.

After several hours of questioning, she said, the interrogation officer told her to take her bags and leave.

"Leave her here and go home and sleep because she's not going to enter Egypt again," the officer told her husband.

Petiwala went on to describe the "humiliating" treatment she was subjected to by airport security officers.

"I was refused water, food, and access to the bathroom," she said, adding that some of the officers "cracked jokes" at her expense, knowing her health condition, as she had just undergone a medical procedure that caused heavy bleeding.

Petiwala had to book the next available flight to Berlin, which would take off the next day at 10:20 am.

When she was finally allowed access to a bathroom, the security officers locked her in and mocked her.

"They were having fun," she said.

"Finally, they opened the door as it was 10:00am and I had to reach my gate. I could not control my emotions and yelled 'shame on you!' after which a man spat in my face."

The American researcher said she was not aware of any reason why she was not allowed to enter Egypt.

"I only recently read that the same day there were also foreign journalists detained and deported from Cairo."

I could not control my emotions and yelled 'shame on you!' after which a man spat in my face.

Earlier this week, a journalist working for the French Catholic daily La Croix was put on a plane out of Egypt "for no reason" after 30 hours of detainment and questioning at Cairo International Airport.

A number of other foreign and Egyptian researchers, academics and journalists have been recently banned from entering Egypt, including Egyptian academic Ismail Alexandrani, who has been in prison since he was detained at Hurghada airport in November last year.

Petiwala filed a complaint at the Egyptian Consulate in Berlin, but she said she did not expect any results.

"It will make no difference," she said.

"The police state will do its bidding. Violence in all forms is arbitrary."

In late April, Amnesty International criticised the authorities for a crackdown on anti-government activists.

President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, who came to power through a 2013 military coup, faces growing discontent over what critics call his heavy-handed and authoritarian rule.

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