After a family spring break trip to perform Umrah, an American teenager was blocked from returning to the U.S. after a stopover in Istanbul on March 19.
The 17-year-old U.S. citizen and resident of Tennessee, Zubaidah Alizoti, was traveling as part of a group along with her family. While her family, who are also U.S. citizens, and the group were allowed to board the flight, Alizoti was not. Her family stayed behind with her in Istanbul.
Posting on Facebook, Alizoti's mother, Sabrina Sadaf Siddiqi said: "In this new America a citizen of our country can be unlawfully denied entry for no apparent reason other than border patrol would not clear her United States passport for entry."
The issue was with the U.S. Transportation Security Administration (TSA).
TSA told StepFeed by phone that international carriers are required to send information on all passengers before they are allowed to board flights. This security information is required for all passengers – regardless of their citizenship – on domestic and international flights.
"It's a layer of unseen security that usually remains unseen. In this situation, that wasn't the case due to an error from the airline," a TSA spokesperson said.
The spokesperson said that from TSA's end, the issue has now been resolved and Alizoti has been cleared to board her flight and return to the U.S.
In a later Facebook post, Siddiqi said the family has re-booked travel for March 22 and hopes the issue will be cleared up. The family was unable to seek direct assistance at the U.S. consulate in Istanbul as all appointments were booked until March 30. But Siddiqi said the consulate contacted them several times and said it was "working on the case."
The mayor of Knoxville, the family's hometown, contacted senators and representatives for Tennessee to request assistance on behalf of the family.
“I contacted the offices of Senators Alexander and Corker and Congressman Duncan, and they all responded promptly and promised to reach out to the Siddiqis,” Mayor Madeline Rogero said in a statement to Huffington Post.
“I have heard from Sabrina Siddiqi that she has heard from them, and she appreciates the support. We all hope she and her daughter are able to travel home soon," she said.
Siddiqi posted on Facebook that the family is not interested in speaking to media at this time. StepFeed has contacted Mayor Rogero for an update on the family's status.
Siddiqi's and her daughter's story come in the wake of attempts by President Donald Trump to block immigrants and refugees from several Muslim majority countries from entering the U.S.
Turkey and Saudi Arabia have not been targeted however. While permanent residents of the U.S. were affected by Trump's initial travel ban, Muslims who are U.S. citizens have not been legally targeted.
Nonetheless, even high-profile American Muslims such as the son of Olympic boxing champion and activist Muhammad Ali and America's first-ever hijabi Olympic champion Ibtihaj Muhammad have been detained by customs' officials upon reentry to the U.S.
Many other Muslim Americans have reported being detained or have faced difficulties while traveling within or to the country.