This Syrian journalist has accused the UK of siding with Assad after her passport was confiscated


Zaina Erhaim is an award-winning journalist who was making her way to London to speak alongside veteran war correspondent Kate Adie at a 'Women On The Frontline' event.

But when she arrived at Heathrow on September 22 with her eight-month-old daughter, border officials said her passport had been reported as stolen by the Syrian authorities.

The 31-year-old was only granted access to the UK because she had a second passport - even though it's full with no space for another visa and due to expire next year.

Now Erhaim has said that the actions of the officials suggested that Britain stands by "a legitimate dictator", and that the country was "taking his (President Bashar Assad's) side against all of those who demand a chance for freedom and defend their basic rights".

She said: "I think if they really believe it was stolen they wouldn't let me in because then I'm going to be a thief and they should have arrested me, at least. But because they knew that it's not a legitimate government against a citizen - it's like a criminal regime against a journalist - that's why they let me in."

Syrian journalist Zaina Erhaim (Nick Ansell/PA)
(Nick Ansell/PA)

Erhaim, who studied for a masters in international journalism at City University London a few years ago, said that while she understood Britain had "rules", it needed to adapt them to consider the political implications. "You're claiming to be friends with Syria but you're acting against the Syrians that you claim you are friends with," she said.

A Home Office spokeswoman said the Government has "no direct contact with the Assad regime due to the atrocities it has committed against the Syrian people" but that it would be "irresponsible to ignore warnings about lost or stolen passports".

Erhaim claims that Assad flagged her passport as stolen to stop her from travelling outside the country and speaking out about "the crimes and the atrocities committed by the regime". She said her reporting of humanitarian issues in Syria was "obviously" something the regime found "threatening".