Ghassan Zaqtan’s Canadian Visa

Last week I was in Glasgow, waiting for Algerian poet Habib Tengour as we were supposed to do a joint poetry reading and a shared presentation of our anthology of North African Literature at the University of Glasgow. Tengour never made it because he never received his visa for the UK, & his passport was returned to him too late for a planned trip to Algeria for a conference. And now Canada is refusing a visa to Palestinian poet Ghassan Zaqtan, shortlisted for the Griffin Prize. Below, Arabic Literature (in Translation)’s take on  another senseless act of governmental repression. (This has happened before to Zaqtan in this country; see my posts here, here & here). It feels like in the Euro-American sphere anyone with an Arab name is presumed guilty & can be treated like a non-person.

Here We Go Again: Canada Denies Ghassan Zaqtan Visa to Attend Griffin Prize Ceremony

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Presumably Canada — like its southerly neighbor — will come around on the issue of a visa for Palestinian poet Ghassan Zaqtan, who along with translator Fady Joudah is on the shortlist for the 2013 Griffin Poetry Prize

straw-bird-joudah-zaqtanHopefully, government officials will issue the visa before the prize ceremony next month. Griffin organizers said on Facebook:

The Griffin Trust is working through appropriate Canadian government channels in the hope we can welcome poet Ghassan Zaqtan to the Griffin Poetry Prize awards festivities in mid June. Thank you to everyone for their expressions of support.

This is particularly galling as the same thing happened to Zaqtan in April of last year, in the US, when Zaqtan was meant to travel around on a multi-city book tour with translator Fady Joudah. Although many protested the visa denial, Zaqtan was unable to make the spring tour, and another one had to be set up in the fall — and yes, that one actually happened.

However, Canada Visa People: I don’t think they can run another Griffin Prize ceremony for you in the fall.

Fady Joudah’s Facebook message said:

“Please share and mobilize: Ghassan Zaqtan, the great Palestinian poet, finalist for the prestigious International Griffin Prize for poetry, has been denied visa to enter Canada to attend the ceremonies in two weeks. The reasons for rejection are: 1-Prize provides insufficient grounds for a visa 2- Uncertainty about his financial independence 3- Uncertainty about his true desire to return to his home. Conditions to consider a new application: 1- proof of financial capacity, explanation of prize money 2- Proof that he had been granted visa before in certain countries (the online application system is not apparently efficient enough to recognize this from his passport info).”

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3 Responses

  1. So sorry to hear about Habib!

  2. Poo says:

    Like it or not, times have changed here. The government is tightening up. Iran has been expelled and trade cut off. Eritria has just been expelled. Palestinian “aid” has been held back and will probably be significantly reduced if not cancelled entirely.There will be more no doubt as our foreign policy becomes rooted in trade. We can withstand any name calling and/or criticism. Literary prizes though worthwhile do not supercede immigration policy. We may error but we act in good faith on behalf of the Canadian people. This is not the Canada of the 50s and 60s and never will be again unless the Left win the next election and that is always a possibility. It has happened before. I guess it comes down to following our laws or don’t come. I think any nation has the right to say that much whether it is acceptable to some or not. I respect other nation’s rules and regulations. Though I no longer travel, I made it a point when I did to avoid those places I found objectionable. We ask no more than that. At least Revenue Canada is not sticking it’s nose into it like the IRS. One hopes they never do. My suggestion to those refused visas is to apply again and give the govie what it wants. Any prizes will be held. The audience might just be smaller but the award is the thing, not the clapping. I think.

  1. June 14, 2013

    […] Arab literature (in translation), & see also posts on Nomadics here & here, and the LA Review of Books, […]

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