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Palestinian actor barred from entering Egypt to attend film festival

Friends said Ali Suliman was deported from an Egyptian airport without clear reason
Palestinian actor Ali Suliman (AFP)

Award-winning Palestinian actor Ali Suliman has been barred by Egyptian authorities from entering the country to attend a film festival in which he is a member of the jury, his friends revealed.

The El Gouna film festival, held in the Red Sea resort town of the same name, kicked off on Thursday and will run until 28 September. It is sponsored by Egyptian billionaire Naguib Sawiris.

According to Ola Al-Sheikh, a Palestinian film critic, Suliman was deported from an Egyptian airport on Wednesday as he flew to Egypt to participate at the Gouna festival as a member of the long feature films jury.

Al-Sheikh said Suliman told her that Egyptian airport security “dealt with him as a threat, isolated him and escorted him back to the plane as a criminal.”

They did not provide any explanation, even though he had a valid visa. Suliman holds an Israeli passport. 

The actor's work has earned him a number of awards at Arab festivals, including the Alexandria Film Festival best actor award in 2015.

His most recent role involved him playing Mousa bin Suleiman, a Lebanese man who heads a militant group in Syria, in Amazon's new series Jack Ryan.

Suliman’s deportation has prompted a solidarity campaign with him by fellow Palestinian actors and filmmakers.

Another Palestinian actor, Ziad Bakri, whose film is scheduled to be screened at the festival, said in a Facebook post that he and his wife have boycotted the festival after its administration refused to assist them with a visa on their Palestinian passport.

Actor Reem Talhami announced she would cancel her participation at the festival in protest against Egypt’s treatment of Suliman.

“I hereby announce the cancellation of my participation as a guest in El Gouna Film Festival,” she said.

“I am very sorry for what my colleagues [Suliman and Bakri] have suffered and what we are all experiencing, the injustice and the flawed and humiliating treatment, especially since it’s coming from an Arab country that has an embassy in the heart of Tel Aviv.”

A third actor, Saleh Bakri, said that an Egyptian filmmaker refused to work with him on a joint project because he was using an Israeli passport. But Egyptian authorities would not accept his Palestinian Authority passport either because he doesn’t have an ID, he added.

The Gouna film festival press office has not replied to MEE’s request for comment.