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Sudanese-Australian PEN World Voices Participant, Yassmin Abdel-Magied, Denied Entry Into the US

The author and activist says that US immigration sent her back within just a few minutes of looking at her case despite traveling on an Australian passport.

Sudanese-Australian mechanical engineer, broadcaster, author and Muslim activist Yassmin Abdel-Magied, was turned down by US immigration in Minneapolis on Wednesday after arriving in the country to attend the PEN World Voices Festival.

Abdel-Magied was due to speak at the festival in New York next week for an event called "No Country For Young Muslim Women," but was denied entry upon her arrival in the States, The Guardian reports. Authorities claimed that Abdel-Magied lacked the correct visa for entry, though the author noted in a statement released on Tuesday, that she had travelled to the US using the same visa before.

"I have previously travelled to the United States on the visa that I sought entry with on this occasion," read Abdel-Magied's statement. "I am not seeking advice and working to resolve the issue as soon as possible. I appreciate the interest and concern and look forward to future travels in the United States."


As she was being sent back, Abdel-Magied live tweeted what was happening. "Within a few min of looking at my case the border security person - Officer Herberg looking at my case she announces: 'we're sending you back!" she wrote in one tweet. Also sharing that her phone and passport had been taken away during the ordeal. "Oh, and they still have my passport. Apparently I can't be trusted with it until I'm in a foreign country because, as Officer Blees said, 'planes get turned away back way too often and then..."

PEN America's CEO Suzanne Nossel released a statement yesterday in response to the incident, describing PEN's mission and pointing out the very purpose of Abdel-Magied's appearance was to advocate for Muslim women and girls. She called on Customs and Border Patrol to allow her entry into the country in order to attend the event.

We are dismayed that an invited guest to our annual PEN World Voices Festival in New York, which starts on Monday, Yassmin Abdel-Magied, herself the founder of an organization called Youth Without Borders, was turned away by US Immigration officials in Minneapolis, reportedly had her phone and passport seized, and was put back on a plane to Amsterdam. Abdel-Magied is an advocate of the rights of Muslim women and refugees and is a citizen of Australia, travelling on that country's passport. The very purpose of the PEN World Voices Festival, founded after 9/11 to sustain the connectedness between the U.S. and the wider world, is in jeopardy at a time when efforts at visa bans and tightened immigration restrictions threaten to choke off vital channels of dialogue that are protected under the First Amendment right to receive and impart information through in-person cultural exchange. We understand that Yassmin was traveling on a type of visa that she had used in the past for similar trips without issue. We call on Customs and Border Patrol to admit her to the U.S. so that she can take her rightful place in the urgent international conversation to take place at the Festival next week.
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Born Adekunle Kosoko, the popular Nigerian singer got married barely two years ago to fellow artist Simi. Last year, the power couple welcomed their first child. As we talk, Gold points to his journey as a father and a husband as some of the biggest inspirations at the moment not just as far as music goes but as his perspective in life and how he now approaches things.

''My [artistry] has changed a lot because being a father and being a husband has made me grow a lot and more.'' Adekunle Gold tells OkayAfrica. ''It has made me understand life a lot more too. I'm feeling more responsible for people. You know, now I have a kid to raise and I have a wife to support, to be a real man and husband and father for.'' He credits this journey with both his newfound happiness and a newfound freedom as an artist.

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