New York, January 29, 2021 – The Committee to Protect Journalists today expressed alarm over the abduction of Syrian journalist Fanar Mahmoud Tami, and called on all parties in northeast Syria to ensure his safety.
In the evening of January 23, masked assailants driving a white jeep abducted 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 pandemic, food 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.”
“We are extremely concerned for the safety of journalist Fanar Mahmoud Tami. If any authority operating in northeast Syria has custody of Tami or information as to his whereabouts, they must release him or disclose it immediately,” said CPJ’s Middle East and North Africa representative, Ignacio Miguel Delgado. “Unless such cases are thoroughly investigated and those responsible are held to account, journalists will continue to work in fear.”
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.
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.
However, the Asayish on January 26 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.
CPJ emailed the Asayish and the Syrian Defense and Interior Ministries for comment, but did not receive any responses.
Editors’ note: This article has been updated to include a reference to the Hawar News Agency’s report. The text has been modified elsewhere to protect a journalist’s safety.