Najwa Elyazg, a Libyan student at George Mason University, returned to classes Tuesday after more than a week of being stuck in limbo. Why? She was out of the country when Trump's travel ban went into effect. President Donald Trump’s executive order originally banned citizens of Libya, as well as Iraq, Syria, Iran, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen from entering the United States for 90 days.
After travelling to Tripoli for winter break, her entry visa to return to the United States was not approved—even though it had been in the past. Elyazg had to travel to London to apply for a visa there since the United States does not have an embassy in Libya. Nearly two weeks later, her visa was approved and she booked her flight back to the United States through Istanbul, Turkey. While en route to Turkey, Trump signed the order.
“I would be expecting this from Libya,” Elyazg told The Washington Post. “We had it in different ways through all my childhood. … But I did not expect this from the United States—the number one place in the world, very liberal, with freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom, freedom, freedom.”
She had to get off the plane and stay at a hotel in Turkey for a week, checking for news daily on whether she would be able to return to her classes. Her academic advisor at George Mason, the president of George Mason, the attorney general of Virginia and also a lawyer who volunteered to help Libyans affected by the ban were all trying to help Elyazg return to the United States.
Welcome home, Najwa! Glad to have you back after a week stranded in Turkey b/c of Trump's ban. pic.twitter.com/HdpxOSKEWL
— Mark Herring (@MarkHerringVA) February 5, 2017
On Friday, her lawyer told her that some people were able to enter, but when she tried booking the $3,800 flight, it was already sold out.
Then, her brother called her to tell her a federal judge temporarily blocked the ban, and she tried to get on the next available flight but had to buy her ticket at the airport directly. She was able to get on a plane, and after waiting anxiously for 45 minutes, it took off and she reached the Dulles International Airport.
She did not face extra screening upon return, and was warmly welcomed back by the security officer. When she saw protesters at the airport opposing the ban, “she had to blink away tears in her eyes," she told the Post. Even though she missed several days of classes, she was able to start the semester without a problem.