Turkey arrests celebrated Syrian singer Omar Souleyman

ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – Turkish authorities arrested beloved Syrian singer Omar Souleyman on Wednesday on charges of membership in a “terrorist organization.”

The Mesopotamia news agency reported that he was initially detained in the Karaköprü district of the southwestern city of Urfa (Şanlıurfa) and taken to the provincial gendarmerie command.

AFP added that Souleyman was being questioned over local media allegations that he had ties to the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), which has been fighting a decades-long and deadly conflict against Ankara over Kurdish rights in Turkey.

His manager told the French media outlet that police were questioning Souleyman about a local media report alleging that he had traveled to northeastern Syria, under the control of the YPG (People’s Protection Units)-linked Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), which Turkey sees as a PKK offshoot.

Souleyman, an ethnic Arab originally from Syria’s Hasakah province, earned his reputation by singing at weddings and parties in both Kurdish and Arabic.

He moved to Urfa’s Akçakale district some ten years ago and was reportedly running a bakery there.

Sublime Frequencies, a Seattle-based record label that released the first compilation of Souleyman’s recordings to be distributed in the West, said the success of his 2007 album Highway to Hassake led to Omar being invited to tour the UK and Europe in the summer of 2009. 

“By the end of 2009,” it continued, “Omar had proven that his unique and charismatic delivery of Syrian electrified folkloric dabke, Iraqi choubi and Arabic shaabi had the ability to appeal to the most diverse of western audiences.”

“Despite there being no shortage of musical talent in Syria, dabke and otherwise, Omar Souleyman is the first Syrian musical export to have won the hearts of westerners and Arabs alike on this scale.”

He also gave performances in both June and October in the autonomous Kurdistan Region’s capital city of Erbil.

His song Warni Warni got nearly 95 million views on Youtube.

Editing by John J. Catherine