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SKeyes Center for Media and Cultural Freedom - Samir Kassir Foundation

Kurdish Syrian journalist Fanar Mahmoud Tami abducted

Friday , 29 January 2021

In the evening of January 23, masked assailants driving a white jeep abducted Syrian journalist Fanar Mahmoud Tami, a freelance journalist who publishes news on his Facebook account, while he was driving his motorcycle near the Al-Basel roundabout in the northeastern Syrian city of Qamishli, according to news reports, the local press freedom group Syrian Kurdish Journalist Network, and the journalist’s father, Bashir Tami, who spoke to Kurdish broadcaster Rudaw.

Tami covers local news in northeast Syria on his personal Facebook account, where he recently wrote about the coronavirus pandemicfood lines in Qamishli, allegations that Turkey had cut the water supply for the nearby city of Al-Hasaka, and accusations that the Kurdish Asayish intelligence agency had spread fear by increasing their presence in the area. In the interview with Rudaw, Tami’s father said, “When the roads were bad, he would write about them. When there was a shortage of gas, he would write about it.”


Qamishli is mostly under the control of the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces, through its People’s Protection Units, a mainly-Kurdish militia; however, the Syrian national Army and its allies control portions of the southern outskirts of the city and the airport, according to news reports. The roundabout where Tami was abducted is near the airport, according to those reports.

There were competing claims and accusations about whether Tami may have been arrested and who might be responsible.

Avin Yousef, the head of the Free Media Union, a local journalists’ syndicate, told CPJ via messaging app yesterday that she believed Tami was kidnapped by forces affiliated with the national Syrian government. She said that government forces have recently arrested young men in the area amid increasing tensions between the national government and the Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria, the region’s de facto government.

However, in a January 26 Facebook post, the Qamishli Media Center, a Facebook-based news page supportive of the People’s Protection Units, said that Asayish forces had arrested Tami for allegedly spying for Turkey and Iraqi Kurdistan. News reports citing local activists also blamed Asayish agents for Tami’s disappearance.

Also on January 26, the Asayish issued a statement denying having arrested Tami, according to reports.

Today, the Hawar News Agency, a news outlet supportive of the People’s Protection Units, published a report alleging that authorities affiliated with the Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria had arrested Tami. That report, citing an anonymous source from the autonomous administration-run People’s Defense Court, alleged that Tami had been arrested under a warrant issued by that court’s prosecutor’s office for espionage against the autonomous administration. 

Ali Namir, head of the Syrian Kurdish Journalist Network’s office for the documentation of violations, told CPJ via messaging app that, regardless of who was suspected of being behind the abduction, Tami was kidnapped in an area under the control of the Asayish, so they should investigate his disappearance.

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