PEN Urges Department of Homeland Security to Reveal Justification for Denial of Entry

NEW YORK—PEN American Center and Split This Rock today issued a joint letter to Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson, urging him to review and explain the decision of DHS officials to deny British-Jordanian poet Amjad Nasser entry to the United States on Saturday, September 27.

Nasser was refused permission to board a plane at Heathrow International Airport in London bound for New York, where he was slated to inaugurate New York University’s new Gallatin Global Writers Series. Nasser was interrogated for more than two hours by a DHS official over the phone, who refused to provide any reason for denying the poet entry into the United States.

“In this time of conflict, it is essential to keep open channels of dialogue and exchange between international writers and intellectuals and their American counterparts,” said Suzanne Nossel, Executive Director of PEN American Center. “The Department of Homeland Security should not arbitrarily deny entry to Nasser, a highly distinguished poet.  The absence of any grounds for his exclusion raises the troubling possibility that Nasser is being punished for opinions expressed in his writing.  The exclusion of individuals from the United States on ideological grounds is a noxious holdover from the early post-9/11 era.  We call upon Secretary Jeh to explain the grounds for Nasser’s exclusion and give him the opportunity to respond to any evidence relied upon to deprive him of the chance to attend this important event.”

Amjad Nasser (a pen name) left Jordan in 1977 and has lived in London for 25 years.  He has worked as a journalist and poet for over three decades, producing some ten books of poetry, four travel books, and a novel for which the English translation will be published in the U.S. next year. Nasser currently serves as managing editor and cultural editor of Al-Quds Al-Arabi, an offshore Arab daily newspaper known for its hardline rejection of Israel and for publishing the first fatwa of Osama Bin Laden in 1996.