Syrian Artist Denied Visa to Attend London Exhibition

Thaier Helal, one of Syria’s most popular artists, has had his British visa application turned down by the Home Office, the Independent reports. Without papers he won’t be able to attend the opening of his first solo show in Britain at the Ayyam Gallery in London.

The Home Office informed Helal that they were “not satisfied he [was] genuinely seeking entry to the United Kingdom as a business visitor. In addition [they were] not satisfied that [he] intend to leave the United Kingdom at the end of [his] visit.”

The artist was upset by the denial and lamented that he would be unable to enjoy this “career achievement” in person. He told the Independent, “I truly believe that the only reason preventing me from being allowed into the UK is my Syrian passport, it was my belief that Britain was an open society which embraced creative freedom and the promotion of cultural exchange.”

The neo-expressionist’s paintings of the Syrian Army have garnered significant international critical acclaim. His dealer Khaled Samawi said that he couldn’t understand the decision. “We are facing enormous problems sending our Syrian artists for exhibitions and arts related events abroad at the moment,” Samawi told the paper. “It is such a great shame as this [is] a highly tumultuous time for our country and I believe that it is so important for their message to be heard by international audiences.”

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