Palestinian film director denied entry to Sweden

09/29/2014 Freedom_theater_logo

In April, 2011 The Freedom Theater founder and director Juliano Mer-Khamis was assasinated in front of the theater while he held his child in his arms. Watch the Deep Dish TV video of his memorial in New York Not long ago Nabil Al-Raee, Artistic Director of The Freedom Theatre was denied a visa to the UK for similar reasons, while one of the theatre’s film students was denied entry to Jordan in order to travel on to Norway for a film-training course and several actors were denied permission by Israel to attend visa interviews at the US consulate in East Jerusalem. An increasing number of staff and volunteers to The Freedom Theatre have been denied entry permits to the West Bank by Israel. Now Mohammed Hajibrahim has been denied entry to Sweden.

Mohammed Hajibrahim photo Hajibrahim_zps707d81d4.jpg

Mohammed Hajibrahim, coordinator of the multimedia department of the world-renowned The Freedom Theatre in Jenin refugee camp in the West Bank, was invited to participate in the 2014 Malmö Arab Film Festival but has been denied a visa to Sweden.

Two of The Freedom Theatre’s films will be screened at the festival; Mr. Hajibrahim directs one of them, The Racer. He was also scheduled to participate in a workshop during the film festival and The Freedom Theatre’s Swedish partners, among them the Public Cinema Association (Folkets Bio), had arranged an intensive, two-week program of events, trainings and visits for Hajibrahim.

The Swedish Consulate General of Sweden rejected the visa application with the motivation that Mr. Hajibrahim is considered to be a "threat to public policy, internal security or public health". The Freedom Theatre made an immediate appeal to the Swedish Migration Board which has been left unanswered for close to two weeks, making it impossible for Mohammed Hajibrahim to attend the screening of his film at the Malmö Arab Film Festival.

“Mohammed is an exemplary employee whose films have been selected to a number of festivals around the world", says says Jonatan Stanczak, the Managing Director of The Freedom Theatre. "This trip to Sweden was the result of over a year of hard work and the recognition of the excellent results of the theatre’s multimedia department, run by Mohammed Hajibrahim.”

Stanczak, who is a Swedish citizen, adds that The Freedom Theatre has been partnering with Swedish organisations and individuals since it was founded in 2006. “We are supported by Sida and PostkodLotteriet, numerous Swedish artists and cultural workers have volunteered at the theatre and in Sweden we have performed and presented our work at festivals, universities and venues throughout the country. No representative of The Freedom Theatre has ever misconducted or dishonoured the terms of the visa.”

Stanczak is worried by the clear tendencies of increased isolation of Palestinian cultural associations. On the one hand the visa application process for northern countries is becoming increasingly complicated and expensive, and on the other hand Israel and neighbouring countries are closing the borders for cultural workers to travel abroad.

"With all this said, I can't see how this denial benefits Sweden in any way - rather the opposite. For The Freedom Theatre and for Mohammed Hajibrahim it is of course an immense disappointment."

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