Skip to main content

Home Music Music News

Omar Souleyman released after alleged militant links in Turkey

The Syrian singer was detained over alleged links to Kurdish militants

By Hollie Geraghty

Omar Souleyman wears a red and white checkered headscarf and sunglasses in the music video for Warni Warni
Omar Souleyman. (Photo: YouTube).

Syrian singer Omar Souleyman has been released after he was detained in Turkey over alleged links to Kurdish militants last week.

Souleyman was detained on Wednesday (November 18) when police questioned if the singer was associated with the People’s Protection Units (YPG), which Turkey says is a Syrian extension of the Kurdistan Workers’ party (PKK).

The PKK is viewed as a terrorist group by Turkey, the United States and European Union.

A report was published in Agence France-Presse on Wednesday, in which the musician’s manager confirmed that the singer was detained due to alleged associations with the PKK.

The Syrian-born musician was detained in Şanlıurfa, in south-east Turkey, for 24 hours, where he has been running a free bakery to feed the hungry after escaping Syria’s civil war, which started in 2011.

Souleyman was accused of “terrorist propaganda”, though it wasn’t clear if formal charges were brought against him. He returned home to his family and friends in Karaköprü district.

“I love Turkey. The Europeans offered me asylum, but I love this country and I want to stay here,” he said on his arrival home, according to a photographer.

His lawyer and manager told AFP on Friday that officials in Şanlıurfa ordered Souleyman’s release but did not get the required approval of the interior ministry. He was then taken back to a detention centre before being released on Friday night.

Souleyman, who sings in Arabic and Kurdish, has achieved international acclaim and collaborated previously with artists like Damon Albarn and ​​Björk.

His 2013 track ‘Warni Warni’ currently has 94million views on YouTube.

In 2015, the singer pledged to dedicate funds from shows to help refugees resettle in Europe.

In an open letter, he wrote: “Syria was heaven on earth to all of us not so long ago and there is no reason it shouldn’t be the same way again soon. In this small meantime we all must help each other as much as we can and point the world to history and understanding the true cause of all the suffering that happens now.”