Swiss travel agent named Isis says she’s blacklisted by bank

© Ruben Sprich
A Swiss travel agent said a Swiss bank has blacklisted her because her name is identical to the acronym for the Islamic State group. A letter from the bank allegedly said that people with “ISIS” names are on its sanctions’ list.

Isis Bihiry, a Swiss of Egyptian descent, named after an Egyptian goddess, did not expect that some day her name would land her into trouble.

The woman, working as a manager of the Royal Voyages travel agency in Lausanne, Switzerland, discovered not long ago that the payments from her clients were being held up by Postfinance, a financial services unit of Swiss Post.

“For more than a month deposits from clients seemed to arrive later than before,” Bihiry told the 20 Minutes newspaper.

She asked one of her clients to send a letter to Postfinance to ask for an explanation. The answer came as a blow to Bihiry.

The payment had been blocked “because people with the name Isis are on a list of sanctions,” the letter read, “Being listed in this way means that financial sanctions will apply against the person in question.”

Bihiry told the Local that the she was “shocked” as she never could imagine that she may be in a list of dangerous people simply because their first name was a keyword.

“It was funny as well as worrying… I was totally paranoid. It made me scared,” she said. “It’s a shame that we let ourselves be manipulated by machines and technology.”

Johannes Möri, spokesman for Postfinance, declined to comment on the case due to “banking secrecy.”

The terror group’s name or objects seemingly associated have caused problems before.

In May 2015, a nail salon, “ISIS Nails”, based in New York City decided to change its name, saying they kept losing clients because it was suspected of having links with the terrorist group.

And in the US a heavy metal band called “Isis” that split up in 2010 has received online abuse from people mistaking them with the Islamist militant group.

In March this year, police officers from the small Italian city of Porto Recanati searched an apartment building after locals thought an Islamic State supporter had been staying there. They believed the terrorist group’s black flag was hanging on a tree nearby. Upon closer inspection, it was revealed that the offending article was simply a black jacket.