World Press Photo has announced a last-minute decision to replace juror Eman Mohammed, a U.S. resident (and 2010 PDN’s 30) who fears she’ll be barred from re-entering the U.S. if she travels to Amsterdam this week to help judge the competition. Separately, a Syrian photographer scheduled to speak at International Center of Photography on March 8 has been denied entry to the US.
The World Press Photo announcement followed a Facebook post by Mohammed on Saturday, explaining that her lawyer had advised her not to leave the U.S. because of the executive order signed on Friday by Donald Trump. The order suspends entry to the US by refugees and by citizens of several predominantly Muslim countries.
Mohammed is Palestinian. Trump’s executive order doesn’t specifically bar Palestinians, but Mohammed said on Facebook, “I’ll be detained because Palestine isn’t a country according to the U.S.” (Countries singled out in the executive order include Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen.)
“We are angered and saddened that bigotry has prevented this talented member of the photojournalism community from joining us this week,” World Press Photo’s Managing Director Lars Boering and WPP’s board chairman Oswal Schwirtz said in a prepared statement on Sunday. They also said: “Eman’s place on the general jury will now be occupied by an equally talented photographer, Tanya Habjouqa.”
Boering was more pointed on Facebook: “I am furious that we can’t bring one of our jury members to Amsterdam… due to the ridiculous actions taken by Trump,” he wrote. “A contest that is about freedom of speech, a foundation that is all about inclusiveness can’t jeopardize a single mom to be separated from her kids just because she is born in a place in the world Trump doesn’t like. That is why I advised her not to leave the USA and stay home.”
Mohammed said on her Facebook post that if she’s barred from re-entering the U.S., she could be separated from her daughters, who are U.S. citizens. With no family in the US, she explained, she doesn’t know where or with whom her daughters might end up.
“Not in a million years I’ve imagined I’ll have to choose between my freedom and my daughters,” Mohammed wrote.
Meanwhile, Syrian refugee Thair Orfahli has been denied permission to travel to the U.S. for a March 8 panel discussion at ICP about the center’s new exhibit called “Perpetual Revolution.” Orfahli, whose selfies and social media posts are included in the exhibition, fled to Europe after his home was destroyed in the Syrian civil war. He had been seeking a visa to attend the ICP event when Trump signed the executive order, which bans Syrian refugees indefinitely.
“Thair Orfahli’s visa appointment was canceled without comment,” ICP adjunct curator Joanna Lehan announced Saturday on Facebook. “This is only one of thousands of stories we are about to hear, and admittedly not the most dire. Still, I’m devastated, and so embarrassed for our country. Thair, who risked his life crossing the Mediterranean, said he felt sorry for US.”
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