Home Office shamed for barring writers and artists from festival | Letters

Readers respond to news that the Home Office has been refusing visas for authors invited to the Edinburgh Book Festival

Once again, selected artists invited to the Edinburgh book festival are, in the words of director Nick Barley, being put through a “humiliating” process (Home Office refuses visas for authors invited to Edinburgh book festival, 8 August). Two of them, Marjan Vafaeian and Ehsan Abdollahi, are much-praised Iranian illustrators published by the indie publisher Tiny Owl. Last year, Ehsan Abdollahi’s visa refusal was met by an outcry in the book world and fortunately reversed. This year, the festival appointed him its illustrator-in-residence.

Next week I am due to present two events with Marjan Vafaeian about our picture book Cinderella of the Nile. If she is not there, I shall have an empty chair in which she will be our guest of honour. I shall ask everyone to imagine our invisible illustrator alongside projections of her marvellous images. Our ancient fairytale involves the humiliation and exclusion of its heroine by those with the meanest of motives. The empty chair will reflect how we too, as artists and audiences, are being treated with Kafkaesque disdain. On what grounds may we not meet and engage with artists like Marjan?

Amelia Gentleman reported Sajid Javid’s stated intention to allow staff greater freedom to use their common sense (Javid plans ‘fairer, more compassionate’ immigration system, 6 June). So where is this new common sense?
Beverley Naidoo
Bournemouth, Dorset

• Another day, another article about an atrocity perpetrated by the Home Office (Home Office accused of silencing Palestinian author in row over visa, 13 August). It seems either nobody is doing anything to reform the Home Office or it is out of control; and of course the ethos on display was largely created by our present PM, so root-and-branch change would inevitably be seen as a challenge to her leadership. I am sure that editors did not miss the irony of juxtaposing a government statement that “after we leave the EU, we will have in place an immigration systemthat welcomes the brightest and best who want to work hard and contribute” with the article. Surely no one can possibly believe that the Home Office we see day by day is capable of “welcoming’ the ‘brightest and best”?
Jeremy Cushing
Taddyforde, Exeter

• I am aware that there is an increase in attempts to block foreign participants from attending cultural events in Britain, and would like to suggest that those who eventually succeed are given prominence at the events. In the case of Nayrouz Qarmout, I would suggest that the book festival organisers open her talk to all comers, and that for that reason it be held in the open air rather than in one of the indoor venues.
Douglas Currie
Edinburgh

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