Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Theater production threatened as Palestinian artistic director denied visa to the UK


June 19, 2014
TAGS:
Section: [Main News] [Culture]
Tags: [Freedom Theatre ] [Jenin]

The play "Suicide Note from Palestine," directed in 2013 by Nabil Al-Raee at the Freedom Theater in Jenin. Photo by Lazar Simeonov.

The artistic director of the Freedom Theatre based in Jenin, Nabil Al-Raee, has been denied entry to the UK, where he was meant to give a speaking tour in June about the work of the theatre in addition to screening short films and documentaries. 

According to the British immigration authorities, Al-Raee’s visit did not qualify under “Entertainer Visitor,” nor did it fit under “Business Visitor,” which is reportedly why he was denied a visa. He was also suspected of trying to extend his stay in Britain.

The artist claimed that the accusations were unfounded, as he is married to a Portuguese woman and could easily apply for residency in Portugal and then travel to the UK if he wanted to.

Yet Al-Raee told Palestine Monitor that this uncertainty is common not only for artists but also for Palestinian people in general: You can never know whether you will be granted a visa or not, he said.

“What would be my chances of getting a visa to Italy, for example, if I wasn’t the artistic director of a theatre?” he asked.

One of the Palestinian actors of the Freedom Theatre, Ahmed Tobasi, has now replaced Al-Raee for the speaking tour since he is able to travel to the UK with his Norwegian passport.

However, the Freedom Theatre is already preparing for a much bigger production meant to take place in Britain during spring 2015. “The Siege” is a multimedia piece of theatre, telling the story of Palestinian fighters who took refuge in the Church of Nativity in 2002 at the height of the Second Intifada.

Although seven Palestinian actors will need visas for the production, Al-Raee said the group would definitely try to get in, as this would be the first time the Freedom Theatre is to perform abroad.

“I think it would be important for the British audience to understand the situation in Palestine and also their responsibility,” Al-Raee said, referring to the role Britain played in the creation of the state Israel and its facilitation of mass Jewish immigration to the region. The entirety of historic Palestine was under British mandate from the end of the First World War until the independence of Israel in 1948.

“Of course, we would also like to develop more artistic partnerships in the country,” he added.

The director lamented the fact that Palestinians were not allowed to see their partner workers in the UK while the latter were able to visit them the West Bank.

“Even the Prime Minister of the UK has visited us in Jenin,” he said.

Al-Raee sees the visa issue as a struggle for all the residents of the so-called Third World, who are trying to obtain visas to the Western countries.

“At the moment, the system divides people into good and bad; those who can enter and those who cannot,” he said, indicating that often times, being from the 'third world’ renders one forever in the later category. 

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