Syrian musician Omar Souleyman detained for terrorism in Turkey | Turkey
Syrian musician Omar Souleyman, who has performed at festivals around the world, was reportedly arrested in Turkey on terrorism charges linked to his alleged membership of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).
The singer and DJ was arrested by agents who raided his home in the southeastern province of Şanlıurfa, his son Muhammad told Syrian media on Wednesday. An official from the Şanlıurfa governor’s office confirmed the arrest to the Guardian.
Souleyman, 55, is a Syrian Arab from the predominantly Kurdish province of Hasekeh, on the border with Turkey. The self-taught musician rose to fame in his homeland as a prolific wedding artist and recorded over 500 albums in Arabic and Kurdish mixing tradition dabke – Middle Eastern folk music – with punchy electronics.
He left Syria after the outbreak of the civil war, after which his free and rocky love songs made him an international star. The 2013 Warni Warni track had almost 95 million views on YouTube.
Souleyman has worked with Björk, Four Tet, Damon Albarn and Diplo, and has performed at the 2013 Nobel Peace Prize ceremony and festivals around the world wearing his dark sunglasses, red checkered keffiyeh and his dishes.
Souleyman’s son denied the terrorism charges, saying his father had no political affiliation and that a “malicious report” had been filed against him. Souleyman and his assistant could not be reached for comment. A neighbor of the family told the Guardian by telephone on Wednesday evening that the musician had not yet returned home.
Tens of thousands of people across Turkey have been arrested in recent years on terrorism charges as part of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s crackdown on supporters of cleric Fetullah Gülen, whom Ankara accuses of an attempted coup State in 2016, and the PKK, which is considered a terrorist organization by Turkey, UK, EU and US.
Souleyman’s manager told Agence France-Presse that the musician was being questioned about reports that he had recently returned to an area of Syria controlled by the Syrian branch of the PKK, the YPG. The YPG has been the West’s key partner in the battle against Islamic State, complicating relations with Turkey, a NATO ally.
Turkish news agency iHA reported that the musician underwent a health examination at a hospital in his hometown of Karaköprü before being taken for questioning at the local gendarmerie command.
With around 3.6 million additional Syrian refugees, Souleyman and his family settled in Turkey. He opened a free bakery in the border town of Akçakale serving needy Turkish and Syrian families, and he frequently lectures on life in Syria before and after the war.