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Syrian rap artist (Mohammad Abu Hajar) refused UK visa to perform

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Please sign this petition so that Mohammed Abu Hajar, a Syrian revolutionary rapper who has been refused a visa to the UK, can be allowed entry to perform at UK festivals and venues which have contracted him to do so. He has no wish to stay in the UK on a permanent basis but to share, through his music, his experiences of the situation in Syria and to highlight the experiences of other Syrians.

Mohammed Abu Hajar, who is now resident in Berlin, has been refused a visa to perform in the UK, May 2016, at a series of events including the Bradford Lit Fest, Richmix in London, and the Knockengorroch Festival, Scotland.

The reason the visa has been withheld and why none of these events will happen is because the UK Department of Visas and Immigration has decided that it isn't certain that Abu Hajar will leave the country after his performances – even though Abu Hajar has been given asylum in Germany and has made a home for himself in Berlin.

Abu Hajar, a rapper from the coastal city Tartus, where Sunnis are a minority and Alawis the majority describes himself as “neither Sunni nor Alawi” helped to form the cross-sect anti-regime group Ahrar Tartus (the Free People of Tartus). The group held protests and, more importantly, created social links between Sunni and Alawi revolutionaries to deflect potential sectarian strife in the city.

Abu Hajar was imprisoned and maltreated from March to May 2012. “It was so tough for me,” he says. “I didn’t want to leave Syria, but I didn’t want to die in prison. If I’d gone back to prison I’d have died there, I know.” Many Syrian musicians, writers and artists have been imprisoned tortured and/or killed for speaking out against oppression. If they have the money to pay smugglers they will try to escape to seek refuge in other countries.

After fleeing the brutal conflict in Syria, Abu Hajar has finished courses in German and starts his PhD research in Germany next year. He has a recording contract and tour dates in Germany and elsewhere in the summer. He and his German girlfriend have wedding plans next year. The reality is that Abu Hajar only wants to come to the UK as a performing artist and has absolutely no intentions of staying here. When asked how he feels about his visa being refused he said "Well, I’m really saddened and disappointed because I really want to perform for the British audience because since the early beginning of the revolution when I was in Syria I noticed that many in the UK showed a lot of solidarity with us and I wanted to share my music and experience with them beside the online communication."

People living in the UK and fans of Abu Hajar’s music are being denied the opportunity to see him live because of institutional racism. This is an assault on cultural interaction and freedom of expression.

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