No room in the sauna: Finns refuse asylum to threatened Iraqi violist

No room in the sauna: Finns refuse asylum to threatened Iraqi violist


norman lebrecht

February 14, 2017

More signs of humanitarian shutdown. The Finns, hitherto hospitable, are restricting entry.

Among thousands of refugees that arrived in 2015 was a viola player in the Iraq National Symphony Orchestra. Members of the orchestra have been threatened for playing Western music. But the Finns have now designated Iraq a safe country and refused the player’s asylum request.

An outcry has been raised by major music groups:

In October 2016, The Finnish Migration Office (Migri) denied asylum from an Iraqi viola player. In the decision, it was accepted as a fact that in Iraq, the person in question had been threatened and assaulted because of his musicianship. Yet according to Migri, it would be safe for him to return to Iraq, if he changed his occupation. The underlying argument here was that ”a musician’s occupation is not a distinctive characteristic that is inherent, immutable or in some other way essential for a person’s conscience or realisation of human rights.”

The Finnish Society for Ethnomusicology together with the undersigned organisations and institutions object the decision. The justifications presented by Migri are not only simplified but also indifferent to both general human rights and the requirement to assess the case as individual and unique, as stipulated by the legislation of Finland….

Read on here.

The statement is signed by:

Antti-Ville Kärjä
Chair of the Finnish Society for Ethnomusicology

Undersigned by

The Finnish Musicological Society
Music Archive JAPA
Global Music Centre
Finnish Folk Music Association
The Finnish Society for Music Education – FiSME
The Promotion Centre of Folk Music and Folk Dance
The University of Eastern Finland, Ethnomusicology
The University of Tampere, Music Research
Tampere Academic Symphony Orchestra TASO



  • Alexander says:

    judging from the head of this note I guess all who are seeking asylum should get the approval from Finnish Academic Sauna Society first and only then they should apply for other permissions 😉 Sauna is for connoisseurs only ….

  • Kimmo says:

    “The Finns, hitherto hospitable”.

    #fakenews. Finland is one of the most restrictive countries in Europe. But what do you expect…

    Yes, Iraq, PARTS of it, is considered safe by most European countries now and therefore asylum numbers have plummeted. I’m sure our friend will be fine.

  • Myrtar says:

    Couldn’t they say the same thing about someone’s religion, and just suggest that the person change religion? If Muslims claim to have become Christian to obtain asylum in Europe, why not tell them to switch back to Islam and send them back?

  • herrera says:

    Why do violists stand outside of the saunas for so long?

    They can’t find the key and they don’t know when to come in.

  • Sue says:

    ”everyone has the right to earn his or her livelihood by the employment of his or her choice”

    Obviously from la-la land.

    “Yes, officer, I’m peddling drugs but the constitution protects me because of my choice of livelihood”.

    You just couldn’t make this stuff up!!!