On June 2, 2016, Kristina Bogos, a master’s student in Arab Studies at Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service, was denied entry and detained upon arrival in Doha, Qatar, after her name appeared on an Emirati blacklist. Two months later her application for a student visa to study at Georgetown Qatar was rejected by the Qatari government.
Ms. Bogos spent a semester studying as an undergraduate student at New York University Abu Dhabi (NYUAD) in 2014, during which she researched and publicly criticized the treatment of migrant workers employed to build NYUAD’s new campus on Saadiyat Island. In 2016, as a graduate student at Georgetown University, she planned to conduct research for her master’s thesis on the labor conditions for migrant workers in Doha while studying at Georgetown Qatar. In preparation for this, Ms. Bogos travelled to Qatar on June 2, 2016. Upon arrival, she was reportedly denied entry and detained for five hours. According to Ms. Bogos, Qatari immigration officials asked her about the time she spent in the UAE in 2014, and informed her that her name was on a blacklist maintained by the Gulf Cooperation Council due to the “trouble” she had caused during that previous visit. With the assistance of the US Embassy, she was later released on a 30 day tourist visa. In July and August, she exited and re-entered the country in order to procure a second and third tourist visa. Each time she was detained at the airport and questioned. Ms. Bogos reported that she never disclosed the details of her research, nor was she asked for it by the Qatari immigration officers.
On August 3, 2016, Ms. Bogos received notification that her application for a student visa for the fall semester at Georgetown Qatar had been rejected by the Qatari government. She remained in the country on her tourist visa until August 22 when she returned to Washington DC to resume her studies there.
Ms. Bogos has since reported that her email account was hacked twice in April 2016, and that she had received an email from an unknown sender informing her that Emirati authorities had warned their counterparts in Qatar of her visit. She alleges that the hacking led to her name being added to the blacklist.
Scholars at Risk is concerned about the denial of entry to a student, apparently in retaliation for nonviolent academic content or conduct. Absent evidence to the contrary, such actions suggest intent to obstruct the nonviolent exercise of the rights to academic freedom and freedom of expression – conduct which is protected under international human rights instruments including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. State authorities have a responsibility to protect academic freedom and freedom of expression, and to refrain from imposing arbitrary restrictions on travel intended to limit these freedoms. Such restrictions undermine academic freedom and democratic society generally.