A Palestinian runner who has completed nine marathons in the last two years has been denied entry to the United States to run the Chicago marathon. Mohammad Alqadi, 27, is a Palestinian refugee from Jenin in the West Bank who now lives in France. He came to prominence after running numerous marathons while holding the Palestinian flag.
His application to visit the US was rejected on the grounds that he failed to meet requirements that he will "return to a foreign country after a temporary visit to the United States," according to a letter sent to Alqadi by the US embassy in France. Alqadi disputed this claim and told Middle East Eye that he met the conditions set out by the US State Department to receive a visa to visit the United States. "I don't know why they would refuse my application," said Qadi. "I work in France, have residency there and have done everything the Americans asked for me to get the visa. Disappointed is one way of putting how I feel. A lot of money and training went into competing at the Chicago marathon. I run because I love Palestine and want to represent it to the world."
The letter sent to Alqadi by the US Embassy also stated that he could not appeal this decision but that he could reapply for another visa. A spokesperson for the US State Department declined to comment on Alqadi's case due to visa records being viewed as confidential. Documents seen by MEE showed that Alqadi had gained a place to run the Chicago marathon prior to applying for a visa. A spokesperson for the Bank of America Chicago Marathon told MEE that it did not help individual participants to procure visas. "The Bank of America Chicago Marathon accepts registrations from runners all over the world and we appreciate our opportunity to welcome these individuals to Chicago," the spokesperson told MEE. "The event does not engage in procuring visas for our participants. It is unfortunate when individuals encounter difficulties and we can understand the disappointment of runners when they are unable to complete their travel arrangements for the marathon. We encourage Alqadi to reach out to our office to discuss the best way to handle his registration for the October 8, 2017, event."
Alqadi intended to run the marathon to raise money for the Palestine Children's Relief Fund. He began running in 2013 and in the last two years, he has run marathons in London, Barcelona, Geneva, Marseille, Lyon, Amsterdam, Nice, Cannes and the Cotswolds in central England. "I love running and it makes me feel happy," said Qadi. "I started running to raise awareness about my people in Palestine. I love my country and whenever I run I am always holding the Palestine flag. I try to send a message that Palestinians are simple people that want to live in peace in the world." He has lived in France after being granted asylum in the country in 2014 and now lives in the French city of Lyon where he works as a chef.
In July, US President Donald Trump intervened to approve the entry of an all-girl Afghan robotics team to enter the US after they were denied entry. Trump recently introduced new travel restrictions on citizens from North Korea, Venezuela and Chad, expanding to eight the list of countries covered by his original travel bans that have been derided by critics and challenged in court. Iran, Libya, Syria, Yemen and Somalia were left on the list of affected countries in a new proclamation issued by the president on Sunday. Restrictions on citizens from Sudan were lifted.