Murad Subay, a Yemeni street artist and the 2016 Index on Censorship Freedom of Expression Awards Arts Fellow, was rejected for a visa to study at Aix-Marseille University as part of a one-year grant for threatened artists.
Subay, who creates murals protesting against Yemen’s civil war, was given a grant to study under the Institute of International Education’s Artistic Protection Fund, sponsored by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, which makes fellowship grants to artists from any field of practice, and places them at host institutions in safe countries where they can continue their work and plan for their futures.
The visa that would have allowed Subay to study was rejected by authorities on Friday, he told Index via email.
“This rejection highlights a spreading hostility to artistic freedom around the world. From Uganda to Indonesia to Cuba, proposed legislation threatens to control artists, while a growing number of supposedly democratic countries such as the UK frequently refuse visas to foreign authors, musicians and activists for events or training. This reinforces notion that constraining artistic freedom is acceptable,” Jodie Ginsberg, CEO of Index on Censorship said.
“We ask French authorities to reverse this decision and allow Murad, an Index fellow, to study.”
Subay’s murals grew from the frustration he felt as his homeland descended into chaos and factionalism. Amid the destruction and anger, Subay picked up his brush. He went out into the streets with friends and began painting in broad daylight. After a few days he was joined by people from the community driven by their desire for peace amid Yemen’s civil war.
The Yemeni civil war has been raging since 2015. An estimated 13,600 people have been killed, including more than 5,200 civilians. The strife has contributed to the death of an estimated 50,000 people from an ongoing famine. In 2018, the United Nations warned that 13 million Yemeni civilians face starvation in what it says could become “the worst famine in the world in 100 years.”