Menu Close

This is the fourth year in a row that Tiny Owl’s illustrators face visa issues!

Iranian illustrators Ehsan Abdollahi and Marjan Vafaeian finally receive approval for their visas!

We are thrilled to announce that the visa issues that were faced by two of our Iranian illustrators, Ehsan Abdollahi and Marjan Vafaeian, have been resolved. Both illustrators have multiple events planned for Edinburgh International Book Festival, with Ehsan being the named illustrator in residence, but had to undergo a long and extremely frustrating process in order to obtain their visas. This was due to their cases both being described as ‘not straight-forward’, leading to a protracted process that lasted a month.


Both of these illustrators have faced similar issues when arranging their visas for Edinburgh Book Festival in the past! Two years ago, Marjan Vafaeian’s visa application was denied and she was unable to attend her own event for the launch of the ancient Persian tale of Bijan and ManijeLast year, Ehsan’s visa was also denied, but due to media attention and public support and outcry, this decision was overturned, and he was able to attend!

Overwhelming public support and outcry! 

This year, the wait for receiving approval for their visa applications was long and disheartening, but once again we found ourselves surrounded by the support of the public! Many authors, artists, educators and book lovers, such as Jame Mayhew, Jackie Morris and Pippa Goodhart, stood in solidarity with our illustrators, protesting the difficulties being faced by Ehsan and Marjan.

Marjan has two events scheduled with author Beverley Naidoo, for their book Cinderella of the Nile. In response to the possibility that Marjan might not be able to attend, Beverley wrote a letter for The Guardian to show her solidarity and how she would be sure to bring attention to Marjan’s cause at their planned events.

I shall have an empty chair in which she will be our guest-of-honour. I shall ask everyone to imagine our invisible illustrator alongside projections of her marvellous images. The empty chair will reflect how we , as artists and audiences, are being treated with Kafkaesque disdain.

We began a campaign on Twitter called #MessageforEhsan, encouraging people to write messages of hope to Ehsan! The response has been overwhelming! We are stunned and grateful for the kind words that have been sent to show support, including heartfelt messages from bestselling authors and illustrators such as Michael Rosen, Philip Pullman and Malorie Blackman!

We also were lucky to receive some fantastic media attention regarding these issues. Articles in The Guardian and The Bookseller brought attention to this unfair and lengthy process, while Channel 4 provided excellent news coverage! Nick Barley, the director of the festival, described the process as ‘humiliating’ and ‘Kafkaesque’, requesting and considered that it creates the risk of damaging arts and culture festivals in the UK.

A response from Ehsan

Ehsan Abdollahi wrote a heartwarming response to everyone who showed their support and sent a #MessageforEhsan. He wrote:

My suitcase is filled with love,

Full of hopes…

The hopeful words that the wind brought me,

I received them all…

Thank you to all my kind friends and to those in the Edinburgh festival who gave me so much love

I thank you kindly and hope to see you again sometime…

With best wishes,


What comes next? 

Now that the visa issues are resolved, we asked Tiny Owl publisher and co-founder Delaram Ghanimifard to comment on the situation. She said:

It was a very stressful time, because for both cases we had to wait until the last minute. Even now, Ehsan’s visa has been granted but he hasn’t actually received it. They are both artists who are visiting. They are no threat to anyone. I am very happy that finally they both will get their visas, but I don’t think we should have to go through all this hardship and stress.

We are looking forward to seeing both Ehsan and Marjan at their events at the festival. It is important that artists, authors and illustrators from around the world are able to visit and share their cultures and ideas. This is the fourth year that Tiny Owl has struggled with the difficulties of the visa process, and we can only hope that from now on, there will be fewer problems faced by people who wish to visit to spread positivity and peace to children.

Buy Marjan’s books!: The Parrot and the Merchant, Bijan and Manije, Cinderella of the Nile

Buy Ehsan’s books!: A Bottle of Happiness, When I Coloured in The World, Thinker: My Puppy Poet and Me

Visit our bookstore

Download book posters

Limited edition prints

Subscribe to Tiny Owl on YouTube!

Posted in Authors, Blog, News & Reviews