Gravely ill boy whose Yemeni mother had to fight to visit him in a US hospital dies

Abdullah on life-support at a hospital in California on Dec 16, 2018. with his father Ali.
Abdullah on life-support at a hospital in California on Dec 16, 2018. with his father Ali.PHOTO: AFP

SAN FRANCISCO (AFP) - A young boy whose mother had to fight for permission to visit him from Yemen as he lay gravely ill in a US hospital has died, a rights group said on Saturday (Dec 29).

Two-year-old Abdullah Hassan, who held American citizenship through his father, had been suffering from a rare genetic illness in its terminal phase.

He died on Friday in a children's hospital in Oakland, California.

Despite her son's grave condition, Shaima Swileh had been repeatedly turned down when applying for a visa because of the travel restrictions ordered by President Donald Trump against six mostly Muslim majority countries including Yemen.

The story drew widespread media attention, especially after Abdullah's father, Ali Hassan, made an emotional plea before television cameras, and ultimately the US embassy in Cairo granted an exemption to Swileh, who arrived at her son's side on Dec 19.

"We are heartbroken. We had to say goodbye to our baby, the light of our lives," Ali Hassan said in a statement issued by the Council on American-Islamic Relations.

The boy's funeral was planned for Saturday afternoon in Lodi, California.


"With their courage, this family has inspired our nation to confront the realities of Donald Trump's Muslim ban," said CAIR attorney Saad Sweilem, who helped the family negotiate the US bureaucracy.

"Abdullah has been a guiding light for all of us in the fight against xenophobia and family separation."

The Republican president made the fight against illegal immigration a central plank of his election campaign and a priority once he reached the White House.

Within a week of taking office, he shocked the world with his first travel ban, which critics say was clearly anti-Muslim even as Trump insisted it was meant to keep out terrorists.

His executive order was the subject of a long judicial battle before finally being upheld - in a revised version - by the Supreme Court in January.

The order closes American borders to some 150 million nationals from Iran, Libya, North Korea, Somalia, Syria and Yemen, as well as some government officials from Venezuela.