Syrian star Omar Souleyman denied visa for Swedish festival gig

Syrian singer Omar Souleyman has been forced to cancel an appearance at an upcoming Swedish music festival after the country’s immigration authorities denied his request for a work visa. The musician, who has previously collaborated with Blur rocker Damon Albarn and Icelandic star Bjork, had been booked to perform at this week’s (begs05Aug13) Way Out West event, which takes place in Gothenburg from 8 to 10 August (13), but Swedish officials have banned him from entering the country due to fears he will try to escape the civil war in his native Syria and try to apply for permanent residency in Scandinavia.
The ruling has left Souleyman dumbfounded and he has criticised the decision in a statement, which reads: “I could not believe the reason for which my visa was denied – that of Sweden being afraid that I will want to stay there and apply for a residence permit when I arrive.
“I am a musician who travels all over the world and to all western countries to sing for people and to make them dance. I have never ever had any wish or intention to remain in any country that has issued me a visa that enables me to perform for people there.
“It is clear to anyone who will take a look at my extensive touring history for the last five years in the western world where I have been and how many borders I have crossed. Hundreds and hundreds… I have a family in Syria and I have no intention of ever abandoning them.”
Organisers behind the Way Out West festival have also weighed in on the visa issue, taking aim at immigration authorities for their “stupidly strict” decision.
Event bosses state: “It’s obvious that Omar Souleyman is a professional touring artist who does not intend to flee to Sweden. It’s outrageous that Sweden is the first country in Omar’s career to refuse him a visa. Given the situation in Syria it feels even more important for artists to be able to express themselves freely.”