On June 16, 2021, officers with the Syrian Democratic Forces’ General Security agency detained Kamiran Sadoun, a fixer for international journalists, for several hours in a jail in the city of Raqqa, according to the journalist, who spoke to CPJ via messaging app, and a statement by the local press freedom group the Syrian Kurdish Journalists’ Network.
Since it was retaken from the Islamic State militant group in 2017, the city of Raqqa has been under the control of the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces, and is part of the Kurdish-led Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria, according to news reports.
At the time, Sadoun was assisting Ana van Es, a correspondent for the Dutch daily De Volkskrant, according to the journalist and a report by the newspaper. He said that they planned to report on the nearby Berlin-Baghdad railway, and were not planning to cover any sensitive topics at the time.
Sadoun told CPJ that he was sleeping in a hotel in Raqqa when four General Security officers knocked on his door, and when he answered, took him from his room and brought him to the hotel’s reception area, where more officers were waiting.
“I asked them to let me tell Ana that I was being arrested, because Raqqa is unsafe and she couldn’t communicate with the driver, but they refused and took me to the car,” Sadoun told CPJ. He said the men forced him into a car, blindfolded him, hit him repeatedly on the back, pointed guns at him, and ordered him to lay down.
He said that officers first took him to a police station and then to a nearby jail, where they put him in a room with more than 40 other people and left him overnight.
The next morning, a General Security officer questioned Sadoun about his name and tribe and then released him, the journalist said, adding that he asked why he had been detained and the officer said, “you are wanted” but would not explain more. Sadoun said the officers did not ask about his work for the media.
According to De Volkskrant, Sadoun, van Es, and the driver accompanying them had valid permits to work in Raqqa. The newspaper said that Sadoun had worked with van Es since 2016.
CPJ emailed the Syrian Democratic Forces for comment, but did not receive any response. De Volkskrant wrote that it had also asked the Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria for an explanation about the arrest but had not received any reply.
Previously, in February 2021, General Security officers arrested Sadoun at a checkpoint in the eastern Syrian town of Rmelan two days after he had finished an assignment with van Es, he said. In that encounter, officers seized his cell phone, held him for two days, and accused him of being a soldier for the Iraqi Kurdish army, which he denied.
“They released me two days later and said it had been a mistake, and asked me not to publicize anything about the arrest on my social media accounts,” Sadoun told CPJ.
He told CPJ that he had approached the Syrian Democratic Forces, the Asayish security forces, and the autonomous administration’s military intelligence service, but said they all claimed they had no connection to either of his arrests.
“I asked them to let me know if I did anything wrong. I told them that I am ready to go to trial if I have violated any laws,” Sadoun said. He told CPJ that he left Syria following the June 16 detention.
In 2020, Sadoun was granted an award by Reuters for his work as a fixer, according to the news agency. Sadoun told CPJ that he has also worked for ABC News, The Independent, The Washington Post, and other outlets.