Iranian artist to attend UK fest after visa denial rescinded

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Tehran, July 29 (IANS) An acclaimed Iranian illustrator who was denied entry to the UK to attend the Edinburgh International Book Festival has been granted the document after the British embassy in Tehran overturned its decision, the media reported.

Ehsan Abdollahi’s original visa application was declined by the Home Office despite the festival’s invitation to him to speak about his books. But the decision was overturned by the embassy, reports the Guardian.

The visa refusal caused uproar among festival organisers and book lovers, who complained it was the third consecutive year that Iranian authors and illustrators of children’s books had been denied UK entry to attend festivals.

Adbollahi’s publisher, Tiny Owl, which promotes Persian books for children, and the festival said on Friday they were “absolutely thrilled” that the decision had been overturned after “enormous public support”.

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“The fact that the embassy granted Ehsan Abdollahi’s visa is a cause for great hope,” Tiny Owl’s co-founder, Delaram Ghanimifard, told the Guardian.

“At a time when the subject of walls, of borders and barriers is ever present, we should remember that we all have something to learn from one another. Art is for everyone – it isn’t limited to one region or country.”

Abdollahi, a scholar at Tehran’s Honar (Art) University, has illustrated “When I Coloured in the World” and “A Bottle of Happiness” – both published in English by Tiny Owl.

In response, he told the Guardian on Friday: “I couldn’t believe the support of people in the UK and beyond. It made me feel very welcome.”

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

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