Iran/Lebanon/Ukraine: Artists affected by conflicts

4 August 2015


When conflicts unfold between and within countries, artists’ rights to artistic freedom of expression are often violated. Recently, artists have been affected by the ongoing conflicts between Russia and Ukraine, and between Israel and Lebanon as well as Iran.


Singer banned in Iran after performance in Israel
The Iranian-born British Muslim singer Sami Yusuf, whose records have sold millions of copies in the Middle East, has been banned by state television in Iran because of his recent performance in the Israeli city of Nazareth, according to a report in the British newspaper The Guardian.

Iranian news websites reported that state tv had banned Yusuf’s music from all its channels after he performed in Nazareth in Ramadan, even though the city (which is located in Israel) has a predominantly Palestinian population and most of his audience was Palestinian.

“Sami Yusuf’s recent trip to the occupied territories (Christian and Jewish holy sites including the site of the baptism of Jesus Christ) is the reason why his works are banned from the state television,” reported Entekhab, an Iranian news website.

Iran does not recognise Israel, and world artists who perform there become persona non grata in the Islamic Republic.

Yusuf, 35, reacted to the controversy by issuing a statement on his official website with the headline: “Banned by my very own.”

“I was very surprised to hear that the official state tv and radio for the Islamic Republic of Iran has banned my music and likeness due to my recent performance in Nazareth,” he wrote.

“I was not aware that bringing smiles to the faces of my beloved Palestinian brothers and sisters could cause such offence to the government of Iran. I am sorry that my precious listeners in Iran will be denied my music for sometime, but I will not apologise for performing in Palestine.”

He went on to say: “Music is permeable and was never meant to be confined to borders nor used for political ends, rather, it was meant to echo freely throughout space and time. ”


Singer refused entry to Lebanon
The singer Adham Nabulsi, who has a Palestinian background was allegedly also affected by the hostility towards Israel when he was banned from entering Lebanon due to the Israeli visa on his passport

According to I24 News, the Lebanese authorities banned Adham Nabulsi from entering Lebanon, because he previously entered the Palestinian Authority’s territories on an Israeli visa. Nabulsi was detained in Al Hariri airport for four hours before the airport authorities refused him from entering Lebanon, forcing his return to Jordan.


French actor banned from entering Ukraine
According to The Hollywood Reporter, actor Gerard Depardieu is banned from entering Ukraine for five years. The French actor, who has recently become a Russian citizen, has been vocal about his support for the Kremlin’s policies toward Ukraine.

A spokesperson for the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) was quoted by the news agency Interfax as saying: “SBU has made a decision to ban French actor Gerard Depardieu from entering Ukraine for five years.”

“She added that relevant documents have been sent to the country’s border control service for including Depardieu into the database of people banned from entering Ukraine,” The Hollywood Reporter reported.

The report notes: “Earlier this month, Depardieu was put on a list of 500 foreign artists, actors and other creative people who have supported the annexation of Crimea by Russia or pro-Russian separatists in Eastern Ukraine, thereby ‘posing a threat to Ukraine’s territorial integrity.’”


Adham Nabulsi


Sami Yusuf




Gerard Depardieu





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