Organizers of the Banipal Visiting Writer Fellowship announced yesterday that acclaimed Sudanese novelist Hammour Ziada — who had been selected as the 2019 fellow — has been refused a visa despite his official invitation from St. Aidan’s College:
The fellowship’s sponsors said that, in spite of the college’s invitation the fellowship’s payment of all his expenses, and his reputation as a writer, the UK government said they were not satisfied that he is “genuinely seeking entry as a visitor or intends to leave the UK at the end of [his] visit.”
A letter signed by Banipal and St. Aidan’s College went on:
We regard this as appalling discrimination against a well-known and respected international author. We reject the grounds given and are working to overturn the refusal. However, as the letter denying Hammour Ziada his visa came when the Christmas and New Year holidays had already started, there was no way anything could be done immediately. We have decided to hold his Fellowship over until 2020, and will work to welcome Hammour Ziada as the Fellow then.
The Banipal Visiting Writer Fellowship, launched in 2016, supports a published Arab author writing in Arabic with a writing residency at St Aidan’s College during the Spring academic term, in addition to local literary events. The first fellow was Iraqi author Ali Bader, and the second Libyan author Najwa Binshatwan. Both are European residents.
The Fellowship’s purpose is to encourage literary dialogue and exchange. The letter — signed by St. Aidan’s Susan Frenk and Fadia Faqir, as well as Banipal’s Samuel Shimon and Margaret Obank — concludes that this visa denial puts the future of the fellowship in jeopardy.
How can it continue if such an award-winning and successful Arab author is refused a visa? We will challenge this denial and discrimination with all our might. We are presently considering our next steps, as well as the possibility of bringing in a substitute Fellow for 2019.
Ziada’s Longing of the Dervish, which won the 2014 Naguib Mahfouz Medal and was shortlisted for the International Prize for Arabic Fiction, was translated by Jonathan Wright and published by Hoopoe in 2016. His translated work is also available in The Book of Khartoum: A City in Short Fiction, ed. Raph Cormack and Max Shmookler, and Banipal 55.