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The story of Ash Koosha, now banned from the USA

The Iranian sound sculptor fled his country after being jailed for putting on an illegal show. Having lived in the UK as a diplomatic refugee since 2010, he’s now barred from the US. Across the USA right now there are people forming bands and putting on shows – I took this freedom for granted when I was a teenager doing the same thing. Ash Koosha didn’t.

In Iran, it was and is against the law, something he and his friends flouted at every opportunity. Most of his shows were illicit, basement affairs, but one such show, a Unesco-sponsored music festival in 2007, was actually given special dispensation by the presidential office, only to be revoked at the last minute. Undeterred, they did what they usually did – they put the show on illegally anyway. This time, they were shut down by police descending on ropes from helicopters.


Ash spent two weeks in a high-security prison sharing a cell with a killer, with no idea when he might get out. When the resulting film, No One Knows About Persian Cats, started attracting notoriety (including a Cannes Film Festival award in 2009), Ash and others who starred in the film – including The Yellow Dogs, rapper Hitchkas, and producer Mahdyar – felt that they had to leave Iran. Ash has been living in the UK as a diplomatic refugee since 2010. I started managing him in 2015, and he released his second album I AKA I through Ninja Tune last year.


The O1-B Visa, necessary for musicians, actors, and artists wanting to work in the USA, is extremely difficult and costly to obtain. The evidence you need to provide includes proof of major awards, pages of clippings from world-recognised press outlets, and numerous supporting letters from high level people in the industry you are in.

The process of getting an O1-B (aka Alien of Extraordinary Ability) visa is still the same today as it was around a year ago when I first started putting together a petition on behalf of Ash Koosha. I knew from the start Ash Koosha’s petition would likely be even more complicated given his background as an Iranian refugee. (

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