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Omar Souleyman Convinces Swedish Government to Let Him Into the Country

After personal appeal, Syrian star now be able to play Sweden's Way Out West festival

Sweden has lifted its ban on Omar Souleyman. As SPIN previously reported, the Syrian dabke star was unable to perform at last week’s Stockholm Music and Arts Festival because the Swedish government denied him a visa. The country refused Souleyman’s entry on the grounds that it does not currently permit any Syrian citizens to enter its borders; apparently, the Scandinavian nation doesn’t want to risk the chance that a Syrian would apply for a residency permit. But, according to the Guardian, the Swedes have changed their tune on Souleyman and overturned their controversial decision.

Souleyman’s manager, Mini Tosti, confirmed that the 47-year-old Four Tet associate will now be able to play Gothenburg’s Way Out West festival, which runs from August 8 to 10. Tosti said that Souleyman went to the Swedish consulate in Istanbul, Turkey, to request a reversal on the ruling. “I thought they would have no chance in the world, but it worked,” Tosti said. “They accepted them, they processed them, but they were not very nice about it.” 

Promoters for Way Out West offered Souleyman a slot on the lineup earlier this week as a remedy to the Stockholm fest fiasco. “Omar Souleyman has fell victim of stupidly strict interpretation of a general rule,” Way Out West organizers wrote in an unabashedly critical statement. “It’s obvious that Omar Souleyman is a professional touring artist who does not intend to flee to Sweden… It’s outrageous that Sweden is the first country in Omar’s career to refuse him a visa. Given the situation in Syria it feels even more important for artists to be able to express themselves freely… Omar Souleyman has a slot waiting for him at Way Out West in Slottskogen next week. Omar has already said yes if he is admitted in to the country. We say — welcome Omar! And to the Swedish authorities we say; here is your second chance.” 

Souleyman issued his own statement, saying, “I could not believe the reason for which my visa was denied — that of Sweden being afraid that I will want to stay there and apply for a residence permit when I arrive… I have a family in Syria and I have no intention of ever abandoning them.” Speaking to the Guardian after receiving permission to play Way Out West, Souleyman said, “Thank God that the visa has been finally resolved. I’m happy now and looking forward to singing for everyone and celebrating. Inshallah, it will all be good.” 

Though he started his career way back in 1994, Souleyman’s outstanding debut studio album won’t arrive until October 22. The LP, titled Wenu Wenu, was produced by Kieran Hebden (a.k.a. Four Tet) and is currently available for pre-order via Ribbon Music. Stream the title track here at SPIN.