Author Beverley Naidoo condemns the UK’s decision to deny an Iranian artist a visa to attend the Edinburgh festival
The UK government’s denial of a visa to Ehsan Abdollahi (Iranian artist barred from Edinburgh festival after ‘Kafkaesque’ visa refusal, 21 July) suggests a game of snakes without ladders in a hall of mirrors. Being divorced, he was told that “no one is dependent on you” ie a bad mark for not having a pull factor to go back to Iran. Last year, however, the artist Marjan Vafaian was refused a visa despite her husband intending to stay in Tehran when she’d be travelling. Her bad mark was apparently for being too young. Making pots of money as an artist in the UK would be a pull factor to keep her here while, in Abdollahi’s case, his work as an illustrator and teacher in Tehran was insufficient explanation for the funds in his bank.
This is the third year that the brave little indie children’s book publisher Tiny Owl has had artists’ visas turned down. I have a personal interest as Marjan Vafaian is illustrating my text of Cinderella on the Nile and I have been hoping that we can do some events together after our book is published next year. Apartheid South Africa banned people and books in order to stop dialogue and communication of ideas. These visa denials ban UK audiences, particularly young people, from engaging with these Iranian artists. Why?