Don’t cry if you can’t fly: American on no-fly list gets stuck in Mid-East

Reuters/Ismail Zetouni
An American citizen of Somali descent is stuck in Bahrain after the US government placed him on a no-fly list - something civil rights group say violates his civil rights.

He’s had to stay in the Gulf Kingdom for the last two weeks after the U.S. government said he was a suspected terrorist.

According to Associated Press, it was 20 year-old Ali Ahmed’s first trip outside the US since he arrived in America, aged 7, fleeing Somalia’s Civil War.

Ahmed first went on a pilgrimage to Mecca, Saudi Arabia, before flying to Kenya to meet his father whom he had not seen in 14 years, and to meet his fiancé for an arranged marriage.

It was in Kenya that a government official notified Ahmed that he had been put on the no-fly list. Officials told him that again in Bahrain, where he contacted the U.S. embassy.

The case drew much needed attention, with the help of a Californian Civil Rights group, the Council of American-Islamic Relations. A fortnight ago, Ali Ahmed was refused entry into Kenya and then flown to Bahrain.

The Civil Rights advocates have sent a letter to Hillary Clinton asking her to intervene in the case, arguing that being an American citizen, Ahmed should be allowed fly back and resolve this situation. The failure to do so, the group argues, would violate due process rights.

The No Fly List was created by the George W. Bush administration following the 9/11 terror attacks.  It is managed by the US Terrorist Screening Center and is a list of people who are restricted from boarding a commercial aircraft flying in or out of the United States.

Ahmed seems to have no idea why his name is associated with terrorism and illegal activity. As AP notes, the FBI claims that for someone to make it on a no-fly list, that person must fall under certain criteria in accordance with existing legislation and the agency’s policies to protect privacy rights and civil liberties.

At this point, no one knows what those criteria are but the bureau is doing its best to avoid giving terrorists clues for avoiding detection, according to Ahmed.

According to the FBI, the U.S. Privacy Act does not allow the disclosure of the names on the no-fly register. Neither can it deny or confirm whether an individual is on the roll.

Ahmed said he has been talking to U.S. lawyers to see what action he can take to clear his name.