Turkey detains Syrian musician Omar Souleyman on terrorism charges

Turkey detained internationally known Syrian musician Omar Souleyman on terrorism charges on Wednesday over alleged links to Kurdish militants.

The singer, who left Syria following the onset of the  civil war, was detained at his home in Turkey’s southeastern province of Sanlıurfa and questioned over reports he had recently travelled to an area controlled by the Syrian-Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG), British newspaper the Guardian reported.

Souleyman is accused of membership of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), the newspaper said. The PKK has been partner to an internal conflict with the Turkish state since the 1980s, in which time tens of thousands of people have been killed.

Turkey views the YPG as the PKK’s Syrian offshoot and has launched two cross-border operations against the group, including an October 2019 offensive close to Souleyman’s hometown of Tell Tamer.

As many as 80,000 people have jailed in Turkey in the crack down that followed the 2016 coup attempt, often on terrorism charges related to the PKK or Islamic cleric Fethullah Gülen, whose followers are charged with instigating the failed military take over.

Souleyman’s son denied the allegations, saying his father had no political affiliations and that a “malicious report” had been filed against him, the Guardian said.

The musician underwent a health check before being taken for questioning at the local gendarmerie command, it said, citing local media sources.

Regularly performing around the world, Souleyman has featured on as many as 500 albums and music compilations during a career spanning nearly three decades. His 2013 track Warni Warni has been viewed nearly 95 million times on YouTube.

After moving to Turkey, the singer established a free bakery in the border town of Akçakale serving poor families and Syrian refugees. He has repeatedly spoken in the past of the cross-cultural influences on his music.

 

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