The Kurdish folk singer Bavê Selah was apprehended on 25 January 2011 by Syrian security forces in Aleppo. Giving no explanation, police forced their way into his home and carried off the ailing 60-year-old to an undisclosed location. Supporters of the singer are in fear for his life. Selah suffers from diabetes and needs medication.

According to the Society for Threatened Peoples (STP) the popular Kurdish folk singer Abdulrahman Omer, known as Bavê Selah, is not a member of any political organization. His only offense has been his years of dedication to the preservation of Kurdish language and culture. The artist documents and collects old Kurdish folk songs. Bavê Selah has been arrested repeatedly in the past as a result of his commitment to Kurdish culture. He routinely performs at public events and organizes concerts in Syria and abroad.

In June 2000 the young Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, who inherited the post from his father, promised that the Syrian Arab Republic would become politically open. He also repeatedly assured the Kurds that they would have more rights. But, on the contrary, the persecution of Kurds and the repression of the democratic opposition have both increased. Members of this ethnic minority, as well as some Christian Assyro-Aramaeans, are daily imprisoned without cause.

Again and again, "inconvenient" human rights activists are detained and tortured, with references to Syrian law and accusations of bringing the state into disrepute. Many people "disappear," as did Bavê Selah, for days or weeks. In some cases months goes by before their location is known. At present there are apparently some 3,000 political prisoners in Syria. A disproportionately high number of them are Kurds.

Conditions in prison are catastrophic. Anywhere from 45 to 100 people are kept in what are called "common cells." In winter it is extremely cold, hygienic conditions are disastrous, and medical care is basically non-existent. Torture is practiced routinely in Syrian prisons and police stations. In addition to physical injuries, the victims will spend the rest of their lives with the psychological consequences of the abuse. Some die of their injuries.

The Kurdish minority in Syria has been subjected to heavy state repression for decades. Although the Kurds make up some ten percent of the population of Syria, they have no political representation. Kurdish parties are de facto banned, because the Syrian constitution does not permit parties that are based on ethnic or religious identity. In spite of some relaxation of policies regarding the Kurdish minority since Bashar al-Assad took power, civil-society engagement on behalf of Kurds is still dangerous.

Please support our appeal to Ruprecht Polenz, Chair of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the German Bundestag, to stand up for the release of Syrian-Kurdish artist Abdulrahman Omer, known as Bavê Selah.

Translated by Elizabeth Crawford

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Syrian-Kurdish artist Bavê Selah abducted