A member of the Icelandic national taekwondo team was denied permission to fly to the US last night, as a result of US President Donald Trump’s executive order, which temporarily bans entry to citizens of Syria, Iraq, Iran, Yemen, Libya, Somalia and Sudan.
Meisam Rafiei is an Icelandic citizen, born in Iran and carrying dual citizenship. He has competed for Iceland numerous times at major tournaments, including a world championship and European championship. He was the world youth champion in 2002 and the Nordic champion in 2016.
Meisam was on his way to compete at the US Open in Las Vegas, along with other Icelandic contestants, mbl.is reports.
“Part of the team left early, but three of us had tickets today,” Meisam told mbl.is last night. “I booked the flight and more before the order went into effect. Then this happened a week ago, and of course it stressed me out; I knew very well that it would affect me because of my background.”
Meisam, after winning the silver at the European Universities Taekwondo Championship in Croatia in July of last year. Photo: Meisam Rafiei/Facebook.
Before Meisam went to the airport, the leader of the Icelandic Taekwondo Association had contacted the US embassy in Iceland on his behalf and been told that if he flew to the US, he could be denied entry or even face arrest. Thus, he was advised not to go.
Meisam told mbl.is, “When my friends were leaving for the airport, I became very sad. I decided to just go. Why not? I’ve been preparing for this tournament.”
When checking in at the WOW Air counter, the airline’s employees decided to look into whether Meisam would be allowed entry into the US. They found out that since he carries an Icelandic passport, he would. Thus, he was given a boarding pass.
But once on board the plane, an employee asked for his passport. “At that point, I was told I couldn’t go and was asked to leave the plane.”
In the meantime, US authorities had contacted WOW Air to inform them that it was not permitted to transport said passenger to the country.
“I was very angry,” Meisam stated, “and I felt bad about being forced to leave in front of everyone. People may have thought I did something bad, but I only intended to compete in sports.”
On his Facebook page last night, Meisam posted this message:
“Was on my way to US Open to compete for Iceland with my icelandic passport and was denied because I was born in Iran”