UPDATE -- Award Winning Humanitarian Denied Entry to United States

Raed Saleh, head of Syria Civil Defense, turned back on eve of receiving NGO community award at Washington forum.
Release Date: 
Apr 19, 2016

Media Contacts
For InterAction: Burt Edwards: 703.861.8237 (cell) or bedwards@interaction.org
For Relief International and Raed Saleh: Michele Kayal: 703.919.8778 (cell) or michele.kayal@ri.org


WASHINGTON -- On the evening of April 18 noted, award-winning humanitarian Raed Saleh -- head of Syria Civil Defense (also known as "The White Helmets") -- was denied entry to the United States. Saleh was scheduled to attend InterAction's Forum -- the largest annual gathering of humanitarian, development and sustainability professionals -- to receive its 2016 Humanitarian Award.

InterAction and Relief International have compiled a quick FAQ below. Saleh is doing interviews direct, via a translator. To schedule an interview please contact Michele Kayal.

See a written statement by Raed Saleh at: https://www.interaction.org/article/remarks-raed-saleh


FAQ - Award Winning Humanitarian Denied Entry to United States

Q: What happened to Saleh?

A: Saleh was traveling to the United States to participate in InterAction's Forum in Washington, D.C. He was to be honored tonight as InterAction's 2016 Humanitarian Award winner. InterAction and Relief International were alerted late on April 18 by one of Saleh's colleagues, Zouheir Albounni, that Saleh was denied entry to the US when he landed at Dulles. Saleh was told that his visa had been cancelled. Albounni was scheduled to serve as a translator for Saleh at Forum.

Albounni works for a USAID implementer that provides support to Syria Civil Defense. Over three years, Albounni said, USAID provided more than $20 million to Syria Civil Defense. This support helped SCD save more than 40,000 civilians. 

Q: What was wrong with Saleh’s visa?

A: According to Albounni, Saleh’s visa is valid until September 2016, and he had not been notified by any entity that it had expired. Albounni added that Saleh was holding a letter from USAID to facilitate his entry with US customs and immigration.

Q: Where is Saleh now?

A: He is back in Istanbul, where he started his travel. Saleh is doing interviews via Albounni. To schedule an interview please contact Michele Kayal.

Q: What happened when Saleh landed?

A: According to Albounni, Saleh was told his visa was canceled. For further information, we encourage you to speak directly with Saleh for an interview.

Q: Have you asked US government officials why Saleh was turned back?

A: We have inquiries into US Government officials into exactly why Saleh was denied entry. Neither InterAction nor Relief International has received an official answer.

Q: Has InterAction set a time to give Saleh his award?

A: We are in contact with Saleh and working to schedule a time to present the award to him in person as soon as his schedule permits.


More About Saleh: Raed Saleh, aged 32, leads more than 2,800 intrepid search-and-rescue volunteers as head of Syria Civil Defense. Known as "The White Helmets," these unarmed and neutral civilians have saved more than 40,000 lives in Syria. Read more online.

More About the Award: InterAction's Humanitarian Award recognizes an individual or individuals who have demonstrated extraordinary leadership in support of NGOs and the people they serve in the developing world. Read more online.

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