U.S. Finally Approves Yemeni Journalist's Visa Application to Receive a Press Freedom Award [UPDATED]


Update: After this story was published, Afrah Nasser announced on Twitter on Monday that her third visa application was (finally) approved:

Original story continues here:

Award–winning Yemeni journalist and blogger Afrah Nasser, currently living in exile in Sweden, is making her third attempt to obtain a visa to travel to the U.S. to receive an International Press Freedom Award in November.

The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) recently announced that it had selected Nasser for the award for her blogging about human rights and gender issues in Yemen, a country that she left in 2011 after receiving numerous death threats.

Nasser wrote on her blog Friday that the CPJ had selected her for the award to honor the work she has done despite significant obstacles and to “shine a light on the conditions in which Yemeni journalists work.” In the same blog, she expressed concern about traveling to the U.S. “in the age of US President Donald Trump’s travel ban,” which targets Yemeni citizens among others.

While in the U.S., Nasser also is supposed to meet with State Department officials in Washington, D.C. to raise awareness about the ongoing humanitarian crisis in her native country and threats to journalists there.

Despite all of this, Nasser says that officials at the U.S. Embassy in Stockholm have twice rejected her visa applications to travel to the event.

Nasser has both Yemeni and Swedish citizenship. In her first attempt, she applied as a Swedish citizen and was told, “you are not authorized to enter the US.” She applied a second time as a Yemeni citizen. After an interview with a U.S. Embassy official, she was told that she had failed to show ties to Sweden.

Nasser wrote:

Sweden became my second home after I arrived here in May 2011 from Yemen, after being invited to participate in a youth leadership training course. I left with just two weeks of luggage, thinking I’d soon be back home.
Not wanting to wake my mother before my late-night flight, I left without much of a goodbye. But as the violence escalated in my hometown, Sanaa, and I was at risk following the death threats I was receiving for my anti-regime writings during the beginning of Yemen’s 2011 uprising, Sweden became the place where I had to seek political asylum.

Nasser said she is certain that her applications were rejected because of Trump’s travel ban.

The reason she needs a visa is that the Obama administration signed into law the Visa Waiver Program Improvement and Terrorist Travel Prevention Act of 2015. According to Think Progress, this law rescinded a visa waiver program that includes Sweden for people who have dual citizenship with Yemen or several other countries, or those who have traveled to listed countries in the past five years.

Meanwhile, Nasser has filed a third visa application and expects a decision by Monday.

“In the meantime, I want my story to help raise the profile of other Yemeni journalists, working hard to make the world understand the brutal suffering of a nation,” she wrote.

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