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An article by Tiny Owl publisher Delaram Ghanimifard

This is the fourth year that Tiny Owl has faced difficulties regarding their authors and illustrators being granted visas to attend Edinburgh International Book Festival. Last year and this year, the situation was met with a great deal of public outcry and support for Tiny Owl and their artists. Tiny Owl co-founder and publisher Delaram Ghanimifard shares the struggles and stresses of the experience. Read her wonderful article below. 

Tiny Owl co-founder and publisher, Delaram Ghanimifard

Book festivals are incredibly important for small publishers like Tiny Owl. With limited marketing budgets, opportunities to share our books with the world and to celebrate the artists and authors who create them is fundamental to our work. That’s why we’re always happy when our authors and illustrators are invited to attend Edinburgh International Book Festival. However, it’s also an incredibly stressful time – and has been for the last four years as the issue of visas hangs over us.

The first year we were invited, one of our authors Ali Seidabadi’s visa was rejected. The second year, illustrator Marjan Vafaeian’s visa was rejected. And the third year, illustrator Ehsan Abdollahi’s visa was also rejected…but this time we fought back and in response to a huge media outcry from fellow publishers, authors, illustrators, booksellers and readers, the decision on Ehsan Abdollahi’s visa was overturned and he was able to attend the festival as well as a sell-out event at the House of Illustration.

With all that happened last year, we were hopeful that the situation would get easier for our illustrators, especially for Ehsan who had visited before and returned to his country after his events at Edinburgh. This year, however, he was the last person to receive his visa, just three days prior to his flight and events at the festival. Illustrator Marjan Vafaeian’s visa was granted, but again, she received it just a few days before her flight to the UK. And without the support of Nick Barley, Director of the Edinburgh International Book Festival, and the outpouring of support on social media and letters to MPs, then they may not have received their visas at all.

Iranian illustrators Ehsan Abdollahi and Marjan Vafaeian faced difficulties obtaining visas once again this year

The whole situation is a rollercoaster of stress, uncertainty and hope. From the day our illustrators and authors are invited, we start planning for an uncertain schedule. Visas are rejected or delayed. Time is wasted. But worse than that, our illustrators are treated like suspicious criminals. I asked Marjan Vafaeian how she felt when she was coming here. She said she felt humiliated. For us, as small publishers, it feels like we are asked to run the Olympics with our feet bound, where everyone can freely travel, except if they are from a specific geographic area. We feel discriminated against.

This year, Edinburgh International Book Festival led a strong campaign to bring all of their invited authors and artists. Eventually, they all received their visas but delays meant that programmes had to be re-scheduled. The stresses placed on the authors and artists have made what should be a happy experience a sad one. And there are still lots of cultural events that miss out because their artists are refused visas. Everyone loses. We hope that next year, our artists can travel hassle-free, without the fear of refusal, as they deserve to be treated.

  • Visa issues for Ehsan and Marjan resolved after long and frustrating wait
  • Teacher Ed Finch’s letter to Home Secretary
  • Author Beverley Naidoo’s letter of solidarity
  • Outcry and support for Ehsan: A blog post

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Posted in Blog, News & Reviews