Walid Raad Third Gulf Labor Artist Who’s Been Refused Entry to the UAE

The UAE considers the artists a "security threat."

Gulf Labor protesters outside the Peggy Guggenheim Collection in Venice. Photo: luciapizzani, via Instagram.
Gulf Labor protesters outside the Peggy Guggenheim Collection in Venice. Photo: luciapizzani, via Instagram.

Gulf Labor artist Walid Raad has been blocked from entering the United Arab Emirates, Hyperallergic reports.

On arriving at immigration on May 11 Raad was refused entry to the country and put on a plane back to the United States the following day.

“At Immigration in the Arrivals Terminal, UAE officials pulled me to the side and escorted me to a waiting room. Immigration officers came back two hours later to inform me that I was being denied entry for ‘security’ reasons,” Raad wrote in a statement published by Hyperallergic.

“I was escorted to the Departures Terminal, where other officials re-arranged my travel back to the US. My passport was confiscated for the 24 hours I was in the airport. An airport employee escorted me to my departure gate on May 12, and handed me my passport before I boarded my return flight” he recounted.

Ashok Sukumaran of Gulf Labor Artist Coalition was also refused a visa for the UAE earlier in the month. Both artists were attempting to enter the country to attend and take part in the Sharjah Art Foundation‘s conference.

Walid Raad is, in fact, the third member of the group to be turned away at the border when trying to enter the UAE. NYU’s Professor Andrew Ross was denied entry in March of this year (see NYU Professor Andrew Ross Banned From UAE for Investigating Abu Dhabi Labor Conditions).

According to The SAF, via Artinfo, Sukumaran’s visa application was refused three times on the grounds of an unspecified security threat.

“Clearly we are not a security threat,” Sukumaran told Artinfo, “The cultural institutions have to explain that actually these are artists and have long operated in the region—that banning them would create a bad precedent.”

Saturday's Guggenheim protest. Photo: courtesy Global Ultra Luxury Faction/Gulf Labor.

Gulf Labor Guggenheim protest. Photo: courtesy Global Ultra Luxury Faction/Gulf Labor.

Gulf Labor have been kicking up a storm and whipping up global support in protest of the labor conditions in UAE in conjunction with the building of branches of the Louvre and Guggenheim museums in Abu Dhabi (see Gulf Labor Protest Shuts Down New York Guggenheim Museum , Gulf Labor Stages Protest at Peggy Guggenheim Collection in Venice and Demonstrators at Guggenheim Protest Labor Abuse in Abu Dhabi).

Gulf Labor are not the only members of the art world who are trying to draw attention to the treatment of construction workers in the UAE (see Artist Sneaks Into Future Guggenheim Abu Dhabi Site to Interview Workers).

The Louvre and Guggenheim museums will join a branch of NYU in Abu Dhabi as a growing number of western cultural institutions set up outposts in the city. However the turning away of artists who have contributed to the creative community there is being seen as an attack on that community and Gulf Labor show no signs of stopping their vocal protests.


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