How I got deported from Lebanon

The following is an article by MUSTAFA AKYOL an unhappy Turkish journalist who was reportedly refused entry into Lebanon and was deported from Rafic Hariri International Airport in Beirut because he had an old Israeli visa stamp in his passport. According to the article the Lebanese ambassador to Ankara had said to Turkish journalists that they would not have a problem entering Lebanon if they had Israeli visa stamp in their passports.

To add salt to injury the Turkish gentleman was mistreated by the airport police according to his article.

Akyol is a renowned Turkish political commentator and author based in Istanbul who writes on issues relating to Islam and modernity.

We are hoping that the Lebanese airport authorities and the Lebanese ambassador in Turkey will read this article and respond as needed to the Turkish gentleman

Here is the article by MUSTAFA AKYOL of Hurriyet Daily News, a leading Turkish newspaper

I am writing these lines from the most unexpected place: the confinement room at Rafic Hariri International Airport, to which I arrived some six hours ago from Istanbul. It is a very dirty place with a few dusty chairs and couches. There is also a sleeping mat on the floor covered with two stinking blankets. I can’t leave the room except to use the toilet, as the rude policeman who put me here made very clear. I am, literally, imprisoned.

Alas, this really was not what I was expecting to find in Lebanon. I was going to have a meeting with colleagues at an institute, stay for one night at a nice hotel, buy a few packages of local desserts and fly back home the next day.

And in fact, this short Istanbul-Beirut trip was going fine until I headed to the passport check in this very terminal in which I am currently imprisoned. Smiling, I walked to the counter and said, “salamun alaikum” to the officer, handing him my Turkish passport, which I thought would be enough for a warm welcome to Lebanon. Not only had Turkey and Lebanon lifted visa requirements years ago, but there is also supposedly a friendship between Lebanese and Turkish peoples.

But the officer’s face suddenly looked grim when he saw one of the numerous visas in my passport: the one issued for entry into Israel. He called his supervisor, who called his own supervisor, and the last man took me to a room.

I waited for three hours in that first room, hoping that things would be okay and I would enter the country. I tried to explain to the half-dozen men in uniform who continuously walked in and out, that I am a globetrotting journalist, which is why my passport includes the visas or stamps of many countries, including Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Qatar. As proof, I also showed them a copy of the Hürriyet Daily News that included my column.

But none of that worked. After three hours of hopeful waiting, they told me that they would deport me back to Turkey on the first flight, which was some 10 hours later. Soon, I also realized that being deported does not mean that you can hang out in the terminal and enjoy duty-free food. It means, at least here in Lebanon, being locked in a filthy room until you fly away.

Thank God they did not take my suitcase and my iPad, and I am writing these lines on the latter. I am hoping to email it to my editor when I get back home and regain my freedom.

Now, on one hand, this is not a big story. The rejection of anybody with an Israeli visa is a standard procedure in some Arab countries (although I had heard that the Lebanese ambassador to Ankara had said to Turkish journalists that they would not have a problem with that in Lebanon. It apparently was not a very effective promise).

But here is the larger picture that concerns me: As a Muslim Turk, whose sympathies are certainly with Arabs in the Arab-Israeli conflict, I am deported and treated as a criminal – not in Israel, but in an Arab country. Hence, from now on, I will probably continue accepting invitations to conferences in Israel, but will hardly ever think of visiting Lebanon again.

So, with such a mindless attitude that alienates even their friends, what do Lebanon and other Arab countries with the no-former-Israel-visitor-allowed policy achieve? Nothing but self-isolation, I must say, while still hoping to be allowed to go the restroom next to my prison cell.

Hurriyet

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_B2K4S23OFZLXG7ETRIUO4RSLOM Joey

    what a lucky person they deport you at list they did not beat the hell out of you so next time don;t bother to visit lebanon and the filthy room and the mat if you where a real journalist you should know any one with and israel entry visa will not be allowed to lebanon yakchamer

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_B2K4S23OFZLXG7ETRIUO4RSLOM Joey

    what a lucky person they deport you at list they did not beat the hell out of you so next time don;t bother to visit lebanon and the filthy room and the mat if you where a real journalist you should know any one with and israel entry visa will not be allowed to lebanon yakchamer

  • Patience2

    Don’t the hezbianshaitans run the airport, now?

  • Patience2

    Don’t the hezbianshaitans run the airport, now?

  • Crossed

    You should do your research before complaining. Lebanon and israel are in a state of war, and Lebanon has made it clear that if your passport has an israeli stamp you may be turned away. This is in writing, the “ambassador’s promise” is merely words.

    This is no ones fault but your own.

  • Crossed

    You should do your research before complaining. Lebanon and israel are in a state of war, and Lebanon has made it clear that if your passport has an israeli stamp you may be turned away. This is in writing, the “ambassador’s promise” is merely words.

    This is no ones fault but your own.

  • Prophettttt

    Good for you,AKYOL, Keep vising Israel,and we don’t need you in Lebanon.
    Does He expect Lebanon to bend its laws to accommodation him because He is a Turk who supports Palestinians?Doesn’t He know that it’s a Lebanese law not to allow anyone whose passport  has had an Israeli stamp  to enter Lebanon? Would Turkey alter its laws for any Lebanese? unless you are Oqab Sakr.or an Al Qaeda terrorist.
    This guy is looking for some publicity at any cost. He even uses His “Muslim Turk” when it suits him. Try to visit Gaza or the west bank without Israeli permission,or rather,try entering the US with a passport which had been stamped in Tehran or in North Korea,and then, write us an article on how homeland security and the FBI would welcome you at JFK.You can’t visit Gaza without permit from Israel,and you would be questioned for hours by the US authorities if you visited a country which is not friendly to the USA.

  • Prophettttt

    Good for you,AKYOL, Keep vising Israel,and we don’t need you in Lebanon.
    Does He expect Lebanon to bend its laws to accommodation you?Doesn’t He know that it’s a Lebanese law not to allow anyone whose passport  has had an Israeli stamp  to enter Lebanon? Would Turkey alter its laws for any Lebanese? unless you are Oqab Sakr.
    This guy is looking for some publicity at any cost. He even uses His “Muslim Turk” when it suits him. Try to visit Gaza or the west bank without Israeli permission, buddy.

  • http://www.facebook.com/jjbondurant JJ Bondurant

    Clearly a savvy international journalist with an ipad is familiar with Google.  Did it really not occur to you to google “lebanese visa requirements” before planning a trip to Lebanon?  This is common sense, especially when traveling to a country like Lebanon, regardless of what anyone tells you.  The information about entry restriction on passports with Israeli stamps is widely known and readily available to travelers.  As others have said, the two countries are at war, and you could never expect other countries to make a similar exception.  Why pick on Lebanon for sticking to policy?  I am sorry Mr. Akyol now has a negative impression of an inherently wonderful country (despite its political troubles), but it is nobody’s fault but his own. 

    I’m pretty sure Mr. Akyol, being as well traveled as he is, already knows this but is frustrated at his lack of foresight and searching for attention of any kind.

  • http://www.facebook.com/jjbondurant JJ Bondurant

    Clearly a savvy international journalist with an ipad is familiar with Google.  Did it really not occur to you to google “lebanese visa requirements” before planning a trip to Lebanon?  This is common sense, especially when traveling to a country like Lebanon, regardless of what anyone tells you.  The information about entry restriction on passports with Israeli stamps is widely known and readily available to travelers.  As Prophettttt said, the two countries are at war, and you could never expect other countries to make a similar exception.  Why pick on Lebanon for sticking to policy?  I am sorry Mr. Akyol now has a negative impression of an inherently wonderful country (despite its political troubles), but it is nobody’s fault but his own. 

    I’m pretty sure Mr. Akyol, being as well traveled as he is, already knows this but is frustrated at his lack of foresight and searching for attention of any kind.