Caabu Press Release: UK denial of visas for Syrian female activists is counterproductive

UK denial of visas for Syrian female activists is counterproductive

11 November 2015

Caabu is hugely disappointed to learn that the visas of two female Syrian activists, due to speak at a number of events in London (including one at Caabu) have been rejected.  

Caabu has seen the rejection letter. The women concerned were told that they could not provide sufficient links to Syria that would ensure that they would return after their visit to the UK. They were not considered to be “genuine visitors”. They were also denied on financial grounds. UK officials also felt it was necessary to remind the women that there is a war going on in Syria, and about Russian air strikes.

Syria’s Rebellious Women, a collection of five short documentaries of bravery and resilience, filmed by Zaina Erhaim for the Institute of War and Peace Reporting (IWPR), details the experience of female Syrian activists living in rebel-held northern Syria.

Caabu was delighted to be able to screen these documentaries, and it is vital that such films are screened in London.  The films will also be screened in New York and Washington shortly. This is an incredible opportunity to hear the on-the-ground experiences of those living in a war zone in Syria, and from five unique and often untold perspectives. Details of Caabu’s screening was also shared from official Foreign Office social media accounts.

Commenting on this, Caabu’s Joseph Willits said:

“How can the British Government and politicians conduct meaningful and productive dialogue on Syria, and about the situations that Syrians are facing inside the country when such an obstructive visa process denies the voices we need to hear from the most? All too often the view that Syrians are no longer part of their own conflict is being played out, as is the ever increasing view that every Syrian is a risk to our security. The UK’s decision to deny women who are so crucial in the roles they play in their communities is wrong, and clearly undermines the crucial causes that the Foreign Office is involved with.

If you are living inside rebel held areas of Aleppo or Idlib, you do not need to be reminded by British embassy officials or the UK Home Office about the barrel bombs and air strikes that are devastating the streets in which you live. It is incredibly patronising. These women know all too well the horrors of war,  and to doubt a connection to Syria under such circumstances, and to be reminded of their own experiences through a BBC link, is simply disgraceful.

Their stories and they themselves should be welcomed, rather than treated as suspects. I would recommend that the Home Secretary, Theresa May sees the documentaries for herself.”


Notes to editors:

1)      For more information or interviews contact Joseph Willits, on + 44207 832 1325 or +447860 860777.

2)      Details about IWPR and Syria’s rebellious women

3)      Caabu screening of Syria’s rebellious women