(New York, NY) – PEN America today said denying a visa for Syrian filmmaker Feras Fayyad was yet another example of how the Trump administration’s travel ban continues to thwart international cultural exchange.

Syrian director Feras Fayyad was reportedly denied a U.S. visa to attend an awards show and promote his latest film, The Cave, which has been shortlisted for the 2020 Academy Awards. In the run-up to February Oscar ceremony, Fayyad was supposed to visit the U.S. to promote his film and receive another award at the Cinema Eye Honors. Fayyad’s previous film, Last Men in Aleppo, was nominated for an Oscar in 2018, and the producer, Kareem Abeed, was initially prevented from traveling to the U.S. for the ceremony, although his visa appeal was approved at the last minute. 

“The denial of Fayyad’s visa shows how the travel ban continues to disrupt and prevent the free flow of artists and ideas across borders, in the process undermining a powerful vehicle for international understanding,” said Julie Trébault, director of the Artists at Risk Connection (ARC) at PEN America. “Fayyad’s films tell the human story of the brutal Syrian war, and his ability to represent his work in the U.S. is being unjustly constrained by the cruel absurdity of the travel ban. Filmmakers, writers, and artists are among the most influential voices fighting against repression and terror globally. By cutting off their ability to promote their work, the United States is playing into the hands of those who wish to silence their voices.”

In 2017, PEN America filed a friend of the court brief along with nearly 30 other arts organizations in the case of International Refugee Assistance Project v. Trump, urging the Supreme Court to strike down the Trump administration’s travel ban. The amicus brief represented the arts organizations’ common concern that, in addition to its violation of religious freedom, the ban also represented a violation of First Amendment rights to free speech by restricting the international exchange of intellectual and artistic discourse. 

Through our work with the Artists at Risk Connection (ARC), PEN America assists imperiled artists and fortifies the field of organizations that support them. If you or someone you know is an artist at risk, contact ARC here.