Syrian artist refused UK visa to attend own exhibition

27 Jan 2015 | Posted by Carl Thomas

A Syrian artist has been refused a UK visa by the Home Office to travel to Britain for an exhibition of his own work.

Thaier Helal has previously been granted visas to visit mainland Europe on a number of occasions but his application to come to the UK as a business visitor for his London exhibition was refused. The Home Office told him it was not satisfied he was “genuinely seeking entry to the United Kingdom as a business visitor” or that he would leave the country at the end of the visit.

The artist’s works are being shown at the Ayyam Gallery in New Bond Street in London. He has received international attention for his works on the Syrian Army.

Mr Helal, who lectures at the University Of Sharjah, produced a letter from his employer, references and bank statements in support of his UK visa application. He told The Independent that he was devastated it had been turned down.

He said: “I just don’t understand why I have been refused entry to the UK, I am just an artist who wants to be at the opening of my first solo exhibition in Britain. It means so much to me – it is really a career achievement.”

Mr Helal has appealed against the Home Office’s decision. The Home Office said it did not comment on individual cases.

However, gallery owner Khaled Samawi said the refusal was another example of what appeared to be a trend to turn down UK visa applications from Middle Eastern artists.

He said: “It’s truly an uphill struggle and if this keeps happening our talented artists will continue to lose out on the opportunities afforded to citizens of other countries, limiting their careers and crushing their motivation … it’s just not right.”