Lebanese Authorities Refuse to Issue Prominent Curator’s Passport

There are claims that the governments actions are politically motivated.

Christine Tohme was denied a passport renewal by Lebanese authorities. Photo: Tarek Moukaddem via Sharjah Art Foundation

Lebanese authorities have reportedly denied a passport renewal application from the influential Lebanese curator Christine Tohme.

According to Artinfo, an unspecified warrant has also been issued against Tohme, who is the founding director of the Lebanese Association for the Plastic Arts, Ashkal Alwan, and was appointed curator of the 2017 Sharjah Biennial.

According to a statement posted in Tohme’s name on Facebook by the Lebanese artist Tony Chakar, the curator accused her home country’s Directorate of General Security of withholding her travel documents on political grounds.

Tohme founded the Ashkal Alwan arts venue in Beirut. Photo: farahat12 via Flickr

Tohme founded the Ashkal Alwan arts venue in Beirut.
Photo: farahat12 via Flickr

“Two days ago I applied to the Directorate of General Security for a passport renewal. When I went back to get my passport, I was informed that the renewal was suspended, due to a warrant issued against me,” the post explained.

“I have no doubt that this warrant is directly linked to the domain of my work, as a director of the Lebanese Association for the Plastic Arts, Ashkal Alwan,” she said. “As such, the significance of this action against me cannot be understated, as it affects the domain of other civic workers, as well as mine personally.”

According to ArtInfo, the move could be a reaction against the artist led anti-government “You Stink” protests staged in the Lebanese capital Beirut last year, and is allegedly part of a wider government crackdown on the Lebanese creative community.

Referring to Tohme, Chakar alleged in a separate post that: “She is not the only one […] but I will refrain from naming others until I know they want to be named.”

The curator believes the passport renewal denial was politically motivated. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

The curator believes the denial of her passport renewal application was politically motivated.
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

A report submitted to the UN by the free speech advocacy group PEN International concludes that“Lebanon is failing to abide by its international commitments to protect the artistic freedoms of its citizens.”

Update: On January 24, Tohme’s passport was returned. However, the curator remains skeptical of the government’s motives. “I was not the first one and I won’t be the last one — there were people who underwent the same circumstances.” she told Artinfo.


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