Hala Kamil, whose story is told in Marcel Mettelsiefen’s Oscar-nominated Documentary Short Watani: My Homeland, is now confirmed to attend the Academy Awards on February 26. The news comes amid the limbo status of millions of refugees and citizens of seven Muslim-majority countries who have been targeted by President Donald Trump’s late-January executive order to ban them from entering the United States.
A refugee from Syria, Kamil had a valid visa and was planning to attend the Oscars pre-ban, but had to change her travel plans. She has now obtained a visa to enter the U.S. and will be there to support the film, which is the story of one family’s fight and struggle to survive the Syrian Civil War. A mother of four, Kamil’s family was torn apart when her husband, Abu Ali, was kidnapped by ISIS in September 2013. He hasn’t been seen since and is presumed dead. Kamil and her family were resettled in Germany, but are Syrian citizens.
Trump’s executive order stopped travel from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen, suspending the U.S. refugee resettlement program for 120 days and the refugee resettlement for Syrians indefinitely. Immediate reaction to the order included a decision by Oscar-nominated The Salesman director Asghar Farhadi to declare he would not attend the ceremony, even if given special dispensation. The ban has since been stalled in the U.S. court system.
Kamil is keen to take advantage of the opening. Here’s her statement:
“When I heard that I might have the opportunity of attending the Oscars to represent Watani: My Homeland, I felt incredibly proud and happy but bittersweet. The first thing that came to my mind was my husband and soul mate. Abu Ali, and I would stay up late every year to watch the Oscars live on television. Sipping coffee together as we always did, we’d try to recall the names of all the famous actors and actresses as they graced the red carpet, in complete awe of this huge event.
“To think that over three years after I last saw my husband, I’ll be traveling to that same ceremony we watched together, brings tears to my eye. But to be reminded of what I have lost is also a reminder of what I have held on to; my four children.
“It’s also a reminder of what keeps me strong, and what drives me to speak up for beloved homeland and its people.
“Traveling to the United States is a very important step forward for me, to have the opportunity to reach so many people with my message of peace, unity and understanding is so invaluable, and I’m so grateful to have this chance.
“I want to tell the world about a small country called Syria, a country that has been burnt alive, its people torn up from the soil they once thrived on. All this destruction and displacement needs the concerted effort of the whole world working together, to help these people back to their roots, the roots they hold so dear. All these people want is peace and the right to live.”