February 6, 2017


Heading to the Airport with the New York Times' ISIS Expert (Andrew Rice, Feb. 5th, 2017, New York)

Though she often travels into the field, Callimachi is best known for her investigations into the ways ISIS recruits fighters and spreads propaganda via online social networks. It used to be that would-be terrorists traveled to remote camps to be trained to carry out acts of violence, but today, a jihadist never has to leave his computer. That is why Callimachi, like many terrorism experts, thinks the travel ban is likely only to aid the extremist cause. Although ISIS has yet to release an official statement, the militants she monitors were celebrating on Twitter and in their Telegram channels. Some were happy that Trump appeared to be tearing down American democracy from within. "The other line of commentary," Callimachi says, "is that this just shows the great evil of America for what it really is. This is what they knew America always was, and now the mask has been taken off." To those who long for an apocalyptic war between Islam and the secular West, Trump's confrontational moves look like the fulfillment of a prophecy.

The Kia swings up a concrete ramp and stops in front of the terminal, and I help Callimachi wheel a pair of large suitcases to the counter for Royal Jordanian Airlines. Women in head scarves are clustered around the elastic entrance to the check-in line. Families are hugging, saying good-bye.

"When you look at President Trump's tweet where he says that we didn't tell anybody because otherwise the bad guys would come in," she says. "Who are these 'bad guys'?" The vast majority of people who have been arrested in America for ties to ISIS have been citizens or permanent residents; since 2001, there have been few cases of terrorist attacks mounted by foreign visitors. "Omar Mateen: born here. San Bernardino, half of the couple was born here, the other was from Pakistan -- a place that's not on the list," she says. "The point is to keep us safe, but the people who are doing this are overwhelmingly not from these countries. And at the same time we are aggravating our relationship with the very partners that we need." Callimachi is a reporter, but she knows that once she lands in the Middle East, she will be the one facing questions. "You know, when you're an American living overseas, your country's foreign policy is basically tattooed to your forehead," she says.

In December, shortly after Trump's election, Callimachi visited the city of Mosul, where the Iraqi army is engaged in a bloody street-by-street battle to drive out ISIS. "Iraqi troops are dying in large numbers," she says. And now the United States, their supposed ally, has labeled these allies personae non gratae. "I've been with Iraqi troops and with the Peshmerga and have seen how they are fighting for Mosul and the price that they're paying," she says. "It's got to be pretty insulting to have a place on this list."

Travelers arrive in US to hugs and tears after ban is lifted (DENISE LAVOIE and WILLIAM MATHIS, 2/07/17, Associated Press) 

Travelers from the seven predominantly Muslim countries targeted by President Donald Trump enjoyed tearful reunions with loved ones in the U.S. on Sunday after a federal judge swept the ban aside.

Airlines around the world allowed people to board flights as usual to the United States. One lawyer waiting at New York's Kennedy Airport said visa and green-card holders from Iraq and Iran were encountering no problems as they arrived.

"It's business as usual," said Camille Mackler, of the New York Immigration Coalition. [...]

Mahsa Azabadi, 29, an Iranian-American who lives in Denver, was forced to put her wedding plans on hold after her fiance, Sorena Behzadfar, was turned away when he tried to board a plane to travel from Iran to the U.S. on Jan. 28.

Over the weekend, though, Behzadfar was cleared for travel and was expected to arrive at Boston's Logan Airport on Sunday afternoon.

"It's been a really tough week to figure out what will happen to us," said Azabadi, who has lived in the U.S. for 11 years and is now a U.S. citizen.

The couple are hoping to keep their wedding date of May 12.

"Seeing the support from the lawyers and different people trying to help, it was really nice," she said. "We want to be the best and do the best for the people and for this country. We would love to have the opportunity."

Posted by at February 6, 2017 6:57 AM