AMUDA, Syrian Kurdistan (Kurdistan24) – On Tuesday, a prominent local Kurdish-language radio station was set ablaze by a group of unidentified assailants in Syria’s northeastern Kurdish town of Amuda.
The Kurdistan24 news team in Amuda interviewed the executive director of ARTA FM Radio, who said that the station caught fire late on Tuesday night. According to the director, a group of masked men forced the station’s guard to open the main door of the building, then set it ablaze.
“The masked men kidnapped me while I was going home, took me to the radio station, and then asked me to order the guard to open the main door,” said Mohammad Hassan, the executive director of ARTA FM Radio.
“After opening the door, they took out some computers and other devices belonging to the radio station, and then burnt the building,” he said.
Hassan stated that he remained handcuffed outside the building until the police and firefighters arrived and freed him.
There were heavy flames when crews arrived, but no human loss has been reported.
The Kurdish authorities launched investigations and promised, in an official statement, that the assailants will be caught soon and brought to justice.
“These acts of vandalism intend to tarnish the image of the heroic resistance of our forces [YPG and Asayish] in their fight against the Syrian regime militants in the city of Qamishlo,” read a statement released by the Jazira Canton Press Office.
“They also intend to disturb the freedom that media in Rojava (Syrian Kurdistan) enjoys which is far beyond what the other Syrian areas of conflict have,” the statement said.
ARTA FM is an independent Syrian radio station. It was established on July 6, 2013, in Amuda and has produced programs in four local languages: Kurdish, Syriac, Arabic and Armenian. It is a community radio station without any ethnic, political or religious agenda.
SIGNIFICANCE OF ARTA FM
The establishment of ARTA FM, Syria’s first Kurdish-language radio station, was an extraordinary event in a country where Kurds were arrested for conversing in their mother tongue.
Until 2011, the Kurdish language was banned in Syria. There were no Kurdish-language schools, books, or newspapers, and at one point no Kurdish names for children were registered.
After the outbreak of the Syrian civil war in 2011, Syria’s Kurds created new forms of Kurdish governance in the country. That is when they became free to use their language and have their own media organizations. This freedom prompted the rise of Kurdish news websites, newspapers, radio and TV stations.
“In contrast with most of the new Syrian radio stations, such as Souriali and Rozana, which have their offices outside of the country, ARTA FM is the first, and only, independent radio station staffed and broadcast by Syrians inside Syria,” according to Syria Untold Website, a source that monitors the activities of the Syrian people inside and outside the country since the crisis.
“ARTA FM might seem like a natural product in any democratic country but, within the Syrian context, it became an important symbol of resistance against a tyrannical rule that, over many decades, created a nationalist totalitarian sphere that subjugated and alienated all other cultures,” Syria Untold Website added.
ARTA FM has been a successful transition toward diversity and democracy that demonstrates respect and tolerance towards all cultures and languages.
Editing by Ava Homa and Karzan Sulaivany