Palestinian author previously blocked from entering UK is to speak at new event after leaving Gaza for first time

A Palestinian author who did not receive her UK visa in time to appear at the Edinburgh International Book Festival last week is to speak at a special event after getting permission to enter the country.

Festival director Nick Barley has previously hit out at the Home Office for the problems authors have faced in obtaining visas.
Festival director Nick Barley has previously hit out at the Home Office for the problems authors have faced in obtaining visas.

Nayrouz Qarmout was one of a dozen Middle Eastern and African writers and illustrators whose applications for visitor visas were refused - some of them multiple times - ahead of this year’s festival. The decision was eventually reversed after her third application, but the Home Office did not grant her visa in time for the sold-out event scheduled for last Wednesday about her forthcoming book, The Sea Cloak and Other Stories.

She is now due to arrive in time to speak at a new event with Taiwanese journalist Hsiao-Hung Pai and Brazilian writer Djamila Ribeiro which aims to celebrate people whose suffering often goes unnoticed and writers whose voices struggle to be heard. Her visit to Edinburgh will be the first time in her adult life that she has been able to leave Gaza.

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Nick Barley, director of the Edinburgh International Book Festival, said “The plight of Nayrouz and the other authors who have struggled to get visas to come to the UK has struck a chord with writers across the world. That she is now able to speak about her work in Edinburgh represents a victory for free speech, and the right for international voices to be heard at our Festival.”

Nayrouz Qarmout was not granted a visa in time to appear at her scheduled book festival event.

Mr Barley has previously hit out at the “humiliating” treatment of international writers seeking permission to enter the country speak at the event, saying that there had been serious doubts over the planned appearances of as many as a dozen authors due to tighter immigration rules.

Drawing on her experiences of growing up in a Syrian refugee camp, the Gaza-based writer will read from her book and will discuss life in Gaza City. Meanwhile, Taiwanese journalist Hsiao-Hung Pai will speak about her work with Chinese migrant workers and Mediterranean refugees, while Brazilian writer and philosopher Djamila Ribeiro is set to discuss the lives of women in Brazil, where people of colour have faced violence and prejudice.

The event, which will be chaired by award-winning novelist Kamila Shamsie, will take place on Thursday at 12.00pm.