Iranian trad artist faces passport woes leaving him ‘in limbo’

by Gazette Reporter

Eight years after moving to Ireland as a permanent resident, and three years after applying for a passport, Iranian musician Shahab Coohe remains in “limbo”.

He is a professional artist whose career progression is being held back by the limits of travel opportunities provided by his Iranian passport.

Coohe has established himself as a mainstay of the Irish trad scene, having described himself as ‘mesmerised’ by his first experience of Irish traditional music when he first arrived on our shores.

He soon formed the band Nava with his brother, who, oddly, after the same passport process, was granted Irish citizenship two years ago.

“We decided to meet up weekly and explore Persian and Irish music,” Coohe says of his early explorations with trad.

“We became even more fascinated by Irish trad, and started learning tunes on our instruments as well as attending sessions.

“We released our first album ‘Tapestry’, and after this we began to get more and more attention. We really started to integrate and interact with the culture and tradition of Ireland.

“We are now known as an Irish band, which I’m proud of. It’s been a journey being an immigrant and musician with a lot of ups and downs. We started to receive invitations from abroad but there was always one concern: how can we travel to these countries when we don’t have a visa?”

Coohe and his brother arrived in Ireland on what’s known as a ‘Stamp 4’ visa, which offers permanent residency but not citizenship. When he talks of his Irish experience, it’s clear that the delay in gaining his full citizenship, and missing out on the travel and cultural experiences that would bring with it, are his only major blight.

“I am truly in love with Ireland as a country, and the Irish people,” he says.

“I have always contributed, and represented Ireland abroad as a musician. I am a graduate from the Royal Irish Academy of Music in performance and I’m grateful to the Irish government for the great support they have given me during my education.”

“I have contacted and followed up my case with the department of justice and naturalisation a number of times. I am quite aware of the current situation with COVID-19 and I also understand that administration work can be delayed in many situations, but my application was made 3 years ago and the average timeframe for a straightforward applicant to be processed is supposed to be 9 months.”

“I hope you can see my frustration and disappointment,” he concludes.

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