In brief

Turkey arrests Syrian Arab musician on charges of PKK links, sentences another one for using word “Kurdistan”

Omar Souleyman.
Omar Souleyman. Author: Casimaría @ Flickr
The Turkish police has arrested Syrian Arab musician Omar Souleyman in the city of Urfa on charges of having links with the YPG, a Syria’s Kurdish militia that is close to the PKK. Souleyman has lived in Turkey since 2011, where he took refuge after the outbreak of the Syrian war.

Turkish news agency IHA links the arrest to statements “a few years ago in Germany” in which Souleyman praised the PKK and the leader and founder of that organization, Abdullah Öcalan.

Ironically, the same agency published a report on Souleyman in 2019 in which it highlighted that the musician had opened a bakery in Urfa where he distributed free bread to refugees who, according to the media, “had fled the persecution of the terrorist organizations Daesh and PKK/YPG.”

The singer’s manager, however, says Souleyman is being questioned about a trip he allegedly made to YPG-controlled areas of Syria, and is confident the artist will be released soon.

Souleyman combines dabke and other traditional Arabic, Kurdish, and Assyrian music from his home region (Cîzîre, or Jazira, in northeastern Syria) with electronic sounds. Souleyman has performed at international festivals such as Glastonbury and Paredes de Coura, and has collaborated with musicians such as Björk and Four Tet.

Year and a half in prison over word “Kurdistan”

Last week, a Turkish court sentenced Kurdish singer Veysi Ermiş to a year and a half in prison for having used the words “Kurdistan” and “guerrilla” in a song. The judge suspended the sentence because the musician had no previous sentences, but warned him that using these two words in Turkey is tantamount to praising the PKK.

Ermiş is linked to the Mesopotamian Cultural Centre (MKM), a Kurdish arts promotion centre that has suffered persecution and outlawing since it was founded in Istanbul in 1991.