UK seizes Syrian activist’s passport at Assad request

The award-winning journalist was interrograted at Heathrow and was told that the passport had been reported stolen by the Syrian regime

Rua’a Alameri

Published: Updated:

British authorities have confiscated the passport of a prominent anti-regime Syrian activist at the request of President Bashar al-Assad’s government, preventing her from travelling and hindering her work as an activist.

Award-winning journalist and campaigner, Zaina Erhaim, had her passport taken away by UK border officials when she landed at Heathrow airport from Istanbul.

After her ordeal with immigration officers, Erhaim told Al Arabiya English on Tuesday that she hoped to leave the country with her old passport without running into anymore issues.

On arrival in the UK on Friday, the Turkey-based activist was interrogated at the airport, and after more than an hour of questioning, was told that the Syrian regime in Damascus had informed them that it was a stolen passport.

“They said they will be returning it to ‘my government’ although its embassy in the UK is closed for years now,” she said in a Facebook post.

A Home Office spokesperson told the The Observer that the UK was required to comply as passports are the legal property of the issuing government, rather than the individual holder.

Erhaim is a well-known critic of Assad and has been campaigning against the Syrian regime for many years.

“I know that if I went home I would be killed, but now I find that Assad’s arm can even reach to the UK. This is a dictator pursuing a journalist,” Erhaim told The Observer.