Sarah Irving

I do things with words, mainly English and Arabic

Sabreen Kadhim and the halfwits at the UK Border Agency


I’ve had occasion to get all irate and ranty about the impact of the UK Border Agency on art in this country before. Sadly, the cluelessly racist pairing of the British government and a morally redundant private company called World Bridge, to which visa applications in the Middle East are outsourced, has fucked up again.

Yesterday was Edinburgh’s chance to see the wonderful combination of Iraqi and Scottish poets that was the Found in Translation section of the Reel Iraq festival. More about that in a write-up on Arablit which will hopefully be up soon. Except, of course, that we were denied the chance to hear the work of Sabreen Kadhim, a young poet from Baghdad who has been published widely in Arabic and won a number of awards in Iraq. Along with two of the musicians who were supposed to be performing at Reel Iraq, her visa was denied.

The rest of the line-up was fabulous, and by way of compensation we did get to hear one of Khadim’s poems – on the “universal theme of unreliable boyfriends” – in English translation read by Krystelle Bamford. But if we were disappointed not to have heard Khadim reading her own work, I can’t imagine the rage and frustration she must have experienced at not being able to come and read it, thanks to the ignorance/prejudice of some grey-faced bureaucrat (some other important Middle Eastern writers who have been denied visa to the UK include Samar Yazbek in 2012 and Atef Abu Saef in 2009). Makes one ashamed to be British (again).

Khyam Allami has more to say on the subject, here.

On a more positive note, to the best of my knowledge the wonderful, challenging Hassan Blasim will be reading from his latest book of short stories, The Iraqi Christ, this evening at Summerhall, after taking part in a panel discussion on artistic responses to the Iraq war. Very much looking forward to that…

4 comments on “Sabreen Kadhim and the halfwits at the UK Border Agency

  1. jimhinks
    March 24, 2013

    Yes, Hassan’s here this time, but he was denied a visa in 2008 by the UKBA, for no good reason so far as we could see. And every time he’s come since then, he’s been interviewed for a long time and generally hassled at the airport.

    • Sarah Irving
      March 24, 2013

      Hi Jim – thanks for that. I had a feeling Hassan had been denied before but couldn’t find the details. It never bloody ends, does it. He was on fine form this afternoon in Edinburgh though, just got back!

  2. Pingback: ‘Perhaps This Poem Has No End’: Reel Iraq in Edinburgh | Arabic Literature (in English)

  3. Pingback: Poetry from Iraq and Scotland | Sarah Irving

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