Syrian star Souleyman detained in Turkey

·2-min read
The official video for Souleyman's 2013 song "Warni Warni" has received nearly 95 million views on YouTube (AFP/DANIEL SANNUM LAUTEN)

Turkish police on Wednesday detained celebrated Syrian singer Omar Souleyman and questioned him about alleged ties to outlawed Kurdish militants, his manager told AFP.

Souleyman was brought in for questioning in the southern Turkish city of Sanliurfa, where he has been running a bakery since escaping Syria's decade-long civil war in 2011, said the manager, who asked not to be identified.

Souleyman was being questioned over local media allegations that he had ties to the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), which is proscribed as a terrorist organisation by Ankara, the US and EU.

The PKK has been waging a decades-long insurgency against the Turkish state that has claimed tens of thousands of lives.

The manager said he expected Souleyman to be released later on Wednesday.

But Turkish media said Souleyman was detained on an arrest warrant issued for "membership of a terrorist organisation", a charge that has seen tens of thousands jailed across Turkey in the past decade.

Local administration officials in Sanliurfa confirmed Souleyman's detention but provided no other details when contacted by AFP.

- Dance hall star -

Souleyman has won international recognition for his melodic mix of dance and folk music, collaborating with artists such as Bjork and the Blur's frontman Damon Albarn.

He performed at a Nobel Peace Prize ceremony in Oslo in December 2013, and starred in a benefit concert at the prestigious South by Southwest (SXSW) festival in Austin, Texas earlier that year.

The official video for his 2013 song "Warni Warni" has received nearly 95 million views on YouTube.

A native of northeastern Syria who sings in Arabic and Kurdish, Souleyman has become a cult favourite of fans of international beats, performing to sold out concert in his trademark dark glass and chequered keffiyeh scarf.

He has featured on tracks of dance hall acts such as Acid Arab, and delivered lectures to international audiences about life in Syria before and after the war.

His manager said the police were questioning Souleyman about a local media report alleging that he had travelled to a region of Syria controlled by a local offshoot of the PKK called the YPG.

The YPG has been a key ally in the US-led campaign against the so-called Islamic State group, further complicating US-Turkish ties.


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