Thursday December 02, 2021

Mideast mothers count days to Biden, visas to see children

January 20, 2021

Syrian mother Dahouk Idriss says she can’t wait for US President-elect Joe Biden to be inaugurated on Wednesday, so she can finally visit her son for the first time in four years.

Biden has pledged that, on his first day in office, he would reverse a ban ordered by Donald Trump on travel to the United States for citizens of many mostly-Muslim countries. "I’m counting the days until I get my next visa," Idriss told AFP, sitting in her comfortable Damascus living room, surrounded by pictures of her far-flung children and late husband.

The retired chemistry teacher in her sixties said she visited her 36-year-old son twice after he started studying in Washington DC the year Syria’s war broke out in 2011, once in 2015 and the last time in late 2016.

But after Trump took over the White House in 2017, he banned access to the United States to all travellers from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen, igniting international outrage and leading to domestic court rulings against it.

Iraq and Sudan were dropped from the list, but in 2018 the Supreme Court upheld a later version of the ban for Iran, Libya, Somalia, Syria and Yemen -- as well as North Korea and Venezuela.

Idriss slammed the ban as "outrageous". "Thousands of mothers like me around the world only have one wish, which is to see their children again," she said. That should be possible for many under Biden -- at least once the separate international travel restrictions imposed due to the coronavirus pandemic ease.