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At the Arab League Summit last year, the biggest scandal wasn’t how Arabs couldn’t get their business together (as usual) to set a path in solving the many problems facing their countries, but how the Lebanese delegation completely humiliated itself and the country it’s representing.
Instead of being thankful for the host country, the Lebanese delegation complained about their infrastructure, because as you know Lebanon leads the way in that regard. They were appalled how Nouakchott didn’t have 5 star hotels for them to be hosted in, devastated at how the summit was being held in a tent, and completely beyond themselves that they had to go through that, in yet another episode of the tough life of a Lebanese politician.
So to make it work, they charged the Lebanese taxpayer to host them in Morocco for the night, then have them travel to Nouakchott the following day for the Summit before leaving Mauritania. The host country then responded in a scathing news report.
But it seems that our streak with insulting Mauritania and its people continues when one of Maurtania’s top and most controversial journalists for his calls for a secular non-Islamic state in his country, Hanevy Dahah, landed in Beirut’s airport.
As our border control personnel flipped through his passport, he was asked about his entry visa, to which Hanevy replied that Mauritania is an Arab country whose citizens can enter Lebanon without a visa if they have $2000 on them as well as a round-trip ticket, emphasizing that Middle East Airlines, Lebanon’s official airlines, wouldn’t have brought him in hadn’t they made sure he fulfilled the requirements to enter Lebanese soil.
The border control officer was not satisfied with the answer, and he referred Hanevy to another officer who was not convinced that Mauritania is an Arab country to which the rules Mr. Dahah illustrated actually applied. A discussion among our airport’s border control officers ensued about whether Mauritania was, in fact, an Arab country or not, to which a senior officer decided, after being racist towards Hanevy because of the darker color of his skin, that Mauritania wasn’t Arab and wanted to deport Hanevy.
A few moments later, the second officer who had decided Mauritania wasn’t an Arab country went on Wikipedia, came back to her superior and informed him of her findings to which the superior replied: “oh right, they added it to the list of Arab countries recently.”
Hanevy was eventually permitted entry to Lebanon.
I guess a good part of Beirut’s border protection officers missed out on that 7th grade geography lession, which is then repeated yearly until graduation, that: “موريتانيا دولة عربية وعاصمتها نواكشوط.”
It’s unacceptable for a citizen of any country, let alone those of which we are ignorant about, to have to go through what Hanevy did. Mr. Dahah was lucky enough one of the officers doubted her pre-conceptions enough to search for the information online. But shouldn’t there be a database for our border officers to check the requirements of entry for a country’s citizens based on who issued their passports? This is gross incompetence, and reflects badly on the Lebanese government and the state of Beirut’s airport.
At a time when our officers would have no issue whatsoever letting Westerners in without any ounce of vetting, it’s horrible that some people from countries that many Lebanese would view themselves as being superior to have to go through what Hanevy Dahah did.
How can we, as Lebanese, be up in arms that our own citizens might face discrimination and ignorance in American and European airports when some of our officers are doing worse to citizens who have the full legal right to enter our country?
But thanks Wikipedia, saving people from deportation and helping people graduate from college since 2001.