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Syrian musician Omar Souleyman detained in Turkey on terrorism charges

Souleyman is being held due to alleged ties to the Kurdistan Workers' Party

By Emma Kelly

Omar Souleyman in Warni Warni video
Omar Souleyman is being detained in Turkey. (Source: YouTube)

Omar Souleyman has been detained in Turkey on terrorism charges.

The manager for the Syrian musician told Agent France-Presse that Souleyman was being held due to his alleged ties to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).

Turkey, the European Union, the United Kingdom and the United States consider the PKK to be a terrorist organisation.

Reports from Turkish media said that Souleyman had been detained on an arrest warrant issued for “membership of a terrorist organisation”.

Souleyman’s son Muhammad denied the terrorism charges while speaking to The Guardian, and claimed a “malicious report” had been filed against his father.

He added that his father has no political affiliations.

A report had alleged that Souleyman had recently travelled back to an area of Syria controlled by a PKK affiliate called the YPG – which has been a key ally of the west in the battle against Islamic State.

In recent years, tens of thousands of people in Turkey have been detained on terrorist charges in a crackdown on followers of the PKK and cleric Fethullah Gülen.

Souleyman has lived in Turkey since 2011, when he fled Syria to escape the civil war, and owns a free bakery in Akçakale which serves poor families from Turkey and Syrian refugees.

The 55-year-old, who previously worked in his homeland as a wedding entertainer, became an international star after he left Syria, and his 2013 song ‘Warni Warni’ has nearly 95 million views on YouTube.

He has worked with artists including Björk, Four Tet, Damon Albarn and Diplo, and has appeared at major festivals including Glastonbury, Pukkelpop and Roskilde.

In 2013, Souleyman performed at the Nobel Peace Prize Concert in Oslo, Norway.

He is known for performing in his signature dark glasses and chequered keffiyeh scarf.