Iranian artist denied UK visa to attend book fest

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Tehran, July 21 (IANS) An acclaimed Iranian illustrator has been denied a visa to attend the Edinburgh International Book Festival amid growing criticism of the UKs handling of Iranian visas, the media reported on Friday.

Ehsan Abdollahi, described by the festival’s director as a “highly respected, award-winning Iranian illustrator of kids’ books”, was due to arrive in the UK next month, but he has received a visa refusal letter, issued by the British embassy in Dubai, reports the Guardian.

The letter stated that he has “no right of appeal or right to administrative review”.

Abdollahi, 37, who teaches at Tehran’s top Honar (Art) University, has illustrated a number of children’s books published in English, including “When I Coloured in the World”, by one of Iran’s best-known living poets, Ahmadreza Ahmadi.

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“It would be a lie if I say I didn’t get upset,” he told the Guardian.

“I had planned for it for months. They have given very ridiculous reasons for rejecting the visa despite me having provided all the necessary documents.”

Abdollahi had to go to Dubai to apply for the visa.

He said one reason for the refusal was that he was single. “Since when being a single person has become a crime?” he asked.

The visa refusal letter said: “You have submitted a bank balance statement from Tejarat Bank with a latest balance of 679,529,024 Iranian rial ($20950). However it is not clear where these funds originate from. As such, without evidence of the origin of this money, I am not satisfied that it is genuinely yours and available to fund the proposed visit. I note you are divorced and no one is dependent on you.”

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In reaction to his visa refusal, the artist drew an illustration which was posted online.

It shows an animated Abdollahi in a bottle in reference to his book, “A Bottle of Happiness”, along with the words painted in colours: “I rubbed out the words ‘No Entry’ and wrote with all my colours: Happiness, Flying, Kindness, Hope, Love.”

He told the Guardian: “I was meant to be the ‘jin’ in the bottle for the kids in the festival, the bottle is the symbol of happiness, but then after the visa refusal I realised it has become a bottle of despair, so I drew that. It carries a message of peace.”

In 2016, Marjan Vafaian, also an illustrator, had to cancel events in Edinburgh and London after being refused a visa.

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