Though the Schengen visa helps facilitate travel and commerce between EU member and affiliated states, it isn’t without its controversies and occasional problems.
Such an issue came to light as it was discovered that the French consulate in the Turkish capital of Istanbul had issued a Schengen visa to a spokesperson for the Syrian group Jaich al-Islam (Army of Islam), Islam Allouche who is also known as Majdi Mustafa. As is reasonable, the media and the general public had questions as to why this had occurred.
The authorities said the following to the media about the visa, “A short-stay visa was issued [to Majdi Mustafa] on the basis of a complete file, after questioning of the competent ministerial services.” Visas such as the type obtained by Majdi Mustafa are known as short-stay visas and fall under the purview of France’s Ministry of the Interior and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
These visas are issued once per six-month period and are often used for a variety of reasons from business to educational and other purposes. How, exactly, Mustafa qualifies for this type of visa was also laid out in more detail by the involved ministries in France. He is believed to have been enrolled since last November 2019 in the Research Institute on the Arab and Muslim World (Iremam) of the University Aix Marseille which falls under the control of the governmental National Center for Scientific Research (CNRS).
What has people vexed about this situation is that the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs also confirmed that Majdi Mustafa was arrested in January on the 29th for the crimes of “acts of torture and complicity,” “war crimes” and “complicity in forced disappearances,” reports allege. These are not only serious crimes but also violations of human rights and possibly war crimes.
Harboring such a person within France, let alone granting them a visa of any kind, is bound to draw public attention. And it has definitely done that. A court handed down an indictment on the above counts for Mustafa. Mustafa’s alleged crimes stretch all the way back to 2013 and the tumultuous period known as the Arab Spring. It is alleged that he was involved with the December 2013 kidnapping of journalist Razan Zeitouneh as well as her husband, Waël Hamada. Razan Zeitouneh was one of the key voices in opposition against Syrian dictator Bashar Al Assad and is regarded as one of the major figures of the Arab Spring that swept the region. For her efforts in opposition to the Assad regime she won the Sakharov Prize. Needless to say, the resolution of Mustafa’s status will be of keen interest to the French public and international human rights watchers.