Monday, February 3, 2020

As Kyrgyzstan Is Feted for a Major Human Rights Milestone, the US Adds it to the Travel Ban

In 2019, Kyrgyzstan was feted around the world for reaching a historic landmark — the end of statelessness. Stateless people have no legal nationality in any country. Like many former Soviet countries, millions in Kyrgyzstan had been left without passports or a nationality at the end of the Cold War. Without a nationality, they could not vote, travel or access many of their rights.
The lawyer who spearheaded the government push to end statelessness in Kyrgyzstan, Azizbek Ashurov, won this year’s prestigious Nansen award, given out each year to a human rights advocate working with refugees, stateless persons or displaced persons. (The award is named for Fridtjof Nansen, a Norwegian explorer and refugee advocate who invented the “Nansen passport” which helped millions of refugees following World War One, for which he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.)
It’s worth noting that a recent report estimates that the United States may have as many as 200,000 stateless persons about which it is doing nothing. Yet the US government has determined that Kyrgyz people, including the human rights lawyers who worked so hard and spent many long hours on horseback to make sure people inside their own country can enjoy their rights, pose such a threat to Americans that they must be banned.
Also on the ban is Nigeria, one of Africa’s largest and most dynamic countries and home to award-winning author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, who wrote a book about the Nigerian-American experience. Why Nigeria? The US government has vaguely hinted that there may be “nefarious actors” in Nigeria, but each day they ignore the nefarious actor in the White House.
Also on the ban, Tanzania, home to some of the top travel destinations in the world, including Mt. Kilimanjaro. Apparently, the government of Tanzania was not informed in advance that it was being added to the ban, nor has the Trump administration made it clear why Tanzania was added to the list, or what can be done to get off the list. In this, Tanzania’s experience is not unlike that of James Comey, the former FBI director who found out he was fired on TV.
Notably, while many Americans are calling this an “update” to the “Muslim ban,” most Tanzanians are not Muslims, only adding to the frightening arbitrariness of the new list. Over the next months and years, millions around the world will be wondering, “why Nigeria?” “why Kyrgyzstan?” and, perhaps, “why not my country?” or, “is my country next?” Chad somehow got itself removed from the list, making me wonder if the Kempinski hotel, once owned by Gaddafi, will soon be renamed the “Trump N’djamena Hotel.”
In a few days, the Senate will vote to acquit Trump of his crimes, not because he’s not guilty, but because Trump can do whatever he wants. And what he wants is to get re-elected. So expect more travel restrictions in the months to come.

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