Today, on September 30, 2018, the Kurdish self-administration in northern Syria comprising of the Democratic Union Party (PYD) and its subsidiaries–together known as the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF)–arrested prominent Assyrian journalist and Qamishli resident Souleman Yusph around 9:00pm local time. His possessions, including his laptop and various documents, were seized by the Kurdish authorities.
Yusph has been detained for his reportage of the forced closures of private Assyrian schools by the Kurdish self-administration in August 2018.
Yusph is one of the few Assyrian journalists who has continued to report critically on the self-administration’s closure of these Assyrian schools despite the ruling authorities’ record of intimidating and imprisoning its rivals and critics. Earlier this month on September 22, Isa Rashid, another prominent Assyrian community figure who serves as an education director for these targeted schools was severely beaten outside his home in Qamishli and left hospitalized.
Yusph has written extensively on the situation for Assyrians living under SDF rule, criticizing the self-administration’s policies as well as the actions of the Dawronoye, a small network of Assyrians wholly funded and controlled by the Kurdish Self-Administration in Syria in the form of the Sutoro (neighbourhood police) and the Syriac Military Council (MFS).
On the morning of August 28th 2018, Yusph shared photographs and videos he had taken through social media showing the Sutoro entering Assyrian schools, closing them, and intimidating residents. These posts acquired tens of thousands of views and helped shine a light on the plight of Assyrians in northern Syria.
Kurdish authorities have consistently denied violations by security forces and attempted to conceal them from the press and human rights groups. On August 29th 2018, the PYD released a statement calling Assyrian clergy, school administrators, and ordinary residents who decried the school closures in Syria as "liars" serving the Syrian regime via these "commercial enterprises" which promote "Ba'athist totalitarian thought."
The detention of Souleman Yusph and the brutal attack on Isa Rashid are illustrations of the repressive atmosphere created by the PYD and its affiliates in northern Syria, where Assyrian journalists, researchers and ordinary civilians risk their lives daring to report on the reality of Assyrians in the region.
This latest arrest is yet another attempt to quell any interest or understanding of how the Kurdish self-administration's draconian policies are harming those living under its self-imposed authority.
The Assyrian Policy Institute believes Yusph’s work covering the developments affecting Assyrians in northern Syria is the sole reason for his detention.
Souleman’s Yusph’s whereabouts are currently unknown. Kurdish authorities should immediately and unconditionally release Souleman Yusph.
Assyrians in Syria Protest PYD's Closure of Schools in Qamishli (August 28, 2018)