American Yahya Wehelie stuck in Egypt on no-fly list, survives on fast food


Aliyah Shahid

DAILY NEWS STAFF WRITER

American Yahya Wehelie has been stuck in Egypt on a no-fly list and  living off of fast food for six weeks.

Curtis/AP

American Yahya Wehelie has been stuck in Egypt on a no-fly list and living off of fast food for six weeks.

Thank goodness for French fries.

The Virginia man who has been stuck in Egypt for the past six weeks after his name was placed on a U.S. no-fly list has been living off fast food and staying in a cheap hotel.

Yahya Wehelie, 26, said he spent 18 months studying in Yemen. But on a return trip to the U.S. on May 5, authorities barred him and his brother Yusuf from boarding a flight to New York.

FBI agents in Egypt told Wehelie that his name was on the no-fly list because of people he had met in Yemen. He was also told that he was prohibited from boarding a U.S. airline or entering American airspace. His passport was canceled and a new one was issued only for travel in the U.S., which expires on Sept. 12.

While his brother was eventually released, Wehelie was ordered to stay behind. He said the U.S. Embassy is paying for his $16 a night hotel room, which he’ll have to eventually pay back. He has also been given coupons to eat at U.S. fast food chains.

“I can’t even eat at Hardees anymore. I ate everything they had there for like two weeks straight,” Wehelie said. Now, the lanky young man said he’s moved on to pizza. But the fast-food diet has left him feeling unhealthy.

Wehelie, a Muslim, was born in Fairfax, Va., to Somali parents. He said he had no dealings with terrorist organizations in Yemen and doesn’t consider himself particularly religious.

“It’s amazing how the U.S. government can do something like this,” said Wehelie, who spoke in American-accented English and was dressed in baggy basketball shorts and a white T-shirt. “My home is America, and I don’t know why I can’t go back there.”

FBI spokesman Paul Bresson said that the bureau does not comment on whether a specific person is on a watch list. But he did note several recent high-profile terror plots, including the failed Christmas Day jetliner bombing, as reason to remain cautious.

Wehelie’s family said he was not physically abused but has undergone severe psychological pressure and was not allowed to speak to the American lawyer they had hired.

Wehelie just wants to go home. And he doesn’t care how.

“Put me … in an airplane with a bunch of U.S. marshals or whatever, in handcuffs,” he told the FBI. “Just get me back home.”

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