Hamde Abu Rahma, a photographer from the occupied West Bank, has been denied a visa by the UK Border Agency, just days before his exhibition is due to open at a major Scottish festival.
Abu Rahma’s powerful images of Palestinian life and protest were initially inspired by the popular protest movement in his home village, Bilin, where lives and livelihoods have been threatened by Israel’s apartheid wall.
Two of Abu Rahme’s cousins — Bassem and Jawaher — have been killed by Israeli forces during their community’s demonstrations, which were made internationally famous through the Oscar-nominated film 5 Broken Cameras.
Abu Rahma told The Electronic Intifada that he is “motivated to show the world what life is like in the occupied West Bank … to bring awareness to the cause locally and internationally.”
As well as appearing in exhibitions, magazines and websites, Abu Rahma’s images have been collected in a book.
Abu Rahma’s visa refusal from the UK Border Agency came, he said, as a complete surprise.
“I have traveled to many countries in Europe, like Germany, Switzerland, Italy and Holland, to speak publicly about Palestine,” he said.
“None of these countries have given me a difficult time entering and the visa applications were all accepted without any issues. My sponsors will now be appealing this refusal.”
Phil Chetwynd of the Network of Photographers for Palestine confirmed that Abu Rahma’s trip to the UK — which was meant to include an exhibition opening in Edinburgh and a tour of the photography collection around Scotland — was to be fully funded and met other eligibility criteria for obtaining a visa.
Funding for the trip was raised through an online appeal, and Chetwynd would have provided accommodation.
“Hamde’s papers were all submitted well in time,” Chetwynd said.
“If we cannot appeal the decision in time, we will be showing Hamde’s photographs anyway, and I’ve asked him to send me a copy of the talk he was to have given,” Chetwynd added.
In Edinburgh, Abu Rahma’s images are to appear as part of Welcome to the Fringe, a day-long celebration of Palestinian music, comedy, drama, performance art and dance which will see a number of Palestinian artists visiting Scotland. The program is part of an annual festival known as the Edinburgh Fringe.
The denial of Abu Rahma’s visa is not an isolated example. A number of artists from Palestine and the wider Middle East — including writers Ali Abukhattab and Samah al-Sheikh and Nabil al-Raee of the Jenin Freedom Theatre — have been denied entry to the UK in recent years.