Syrian musician Omar Souleyman is denied entry to Sweden

The Damon Albarn and Björk collaborator was refused entry to the country to perform at Way Out West

Omar Souleyman has been forced to pull his scheduled appearance at Sweden’s Way Out West festival after he was denied a visa.

According to a statement on the festival’s website, he was refused entry on the grounds that Sweden does not admit Syrian citizens into the country at the moment and they believed that the risk of him applying for a residence permit would be too high.

Way Out West, which takes place in Gothenburg from August 8 to 10, criticised the decision on a statement on its website and called on the government to reverse the decision. “We think that Omar Souleyman has [fallen] victim of stupidly strict interpretation of a general rule. It’s obvious that Omar Souleyman is a professional touring artist who does not intend to flee to Sweden,” the statement reads. “It’s outrageous that Sweden is the first country in Omar’s career to refuse him a visa. Given the situation in Syria it feels even more important for artists to be able to express themselves freely.”

Souleyman said in a statement: “I could not believe the reason for which my visa was denied – that of Sweden being afraid that I will want to stay there and apply for a residence permit when I arrive. I am a musician who travels all over the world and to all western countries to sing for people and to make them dance. I have never ever had any wish or intention to remain in any country that has issued me a visa that enables me to perform for people there. It is clear to anyone who will take a look at my extensive touring history for the last five years in the western world where I have been and how many borders I have crossed. Hundreds and hundreds.” He added: “I have a family in Syria and I have no intention of ever abandoning them.”

Omar Souleyman has previously worked with Björk on her ‘Biophilia’ project and has also recorded with Damon Albarn.