Omar Souleyman Detained and Questioned in Turkey, Manager Says

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The Syria-born singer was arrested for allegedly associating with the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, his manager told Agence France-Presse

Omar Souleyman
Omar Souleyman, July 2018 (Beata Zawrzel/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

Omar Souleyman has been arrested in Turkey, according to Agence France-Presse. Souleyman’s manager confirmed the news, telling AFP that the singer was detained for questioning about alleged associations with the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). Souleyman is expected to be released some time today, according to the report.

Born and raised in Syria, Souleyman has been based in southeastern Turkey for more than a decade and has run a bakery in Sanliurfa since fleeing civil war in his home country. He was a highly popular regional presence as a wedding entertainer for several years before breaking through to American audiences through the label Sublime Frequencies in 2007; Four Tet’s Kieran Hebden subsequently produced 2013’s Wenu Wenu and 2015’s Bahdeni Nami. Souleyman’s most recent album was 2019’s Shlon, released on Diplo’s Mad Decent label.

Souleyman described his localized influences to Vice in 2013: “The area where I live is a triangle—there’s Turkish people, Christians, and Kurds. I used to sing in every one of these areas. They all play their own style of traditional music, so I used to sing in their style when I went to play there.”

In recent years, the Kurdistan Workers’ Party has struck against the Turkish government through car bombs and other acts of insurgency. Although Turkey, the United States, and the European Union have all designated the nearly 50-year-old group as a terrorist organization, the PKK fits into a larger, more complicated struggle for Kurdish self-determination in the region.

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