Syrian-born musician Omar Souleyman, who worked with the likes of Bjork and Damon Albarn, has been detained in Turkey over alleged links to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, which Ankara considers a terrorist group.
Souleyman was brought in for questioning on Wednesday, while officers also searched his home in Turkey’s southeastern Sanliurfa province, the singer’s manager said.
The arrest was likely triggered by recent reports that the musician had traveled to an area in Syria controlled by the Kurdish militias known as the YPG, he added.
The YPG have been US allies in the fight against Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS), but Turkey views them as an extension of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and a threat to national security.
The Workers’ Party has been fighting Turkish troops in the southeast of the country for decades and is seeking greater autonomy for the Kurdish population.
Souleyman’s son denied his father’s alleged ties to terrorists, saying he had no political ties and had been the victim of a “malicious message.” Some media outlets claimed the musician could be released later on Thursday.
Souleyman, who hails from Syria’s predominantly Kurdish province of Hasekeh, was known in his homeland as a prolific wedding performer. But his international career soared after he moved to Turkey ten years ago, fleeing the Syrian conflict. The 55-year-old’s clips, including his chart-topping hit ‘Warni Warni’, have been viewed millions of times on YouTube. He has performed at the 2013 Nobel Peace Prize awards and at many major festivals around the world.
His unique style, based on mixing traditional Middle Eastern folk music with electronic sound, has attracted the attention of stars such as Bjork, Four Tet, Damon Albarn and Diplo, all of whom have collaborated with Souleyman.
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