Syrian documentary filmmaker feared detained by authorities


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ANTAKYA, Turkey - -A Syrian documentary filmmaker apparently has been arrested by Syrian security services, said friends and family members who voiced concern for his safety Saturday.

Orwa Nairabiya, 35, was last heard from Thursday as he prepared to board a flight from Damascus to Cairo.


The filmmaker never boarded the EgyptAir flight, his father said in a Facebook posting. The father, Mouwafaq Nairabiya, a former political prisoner, added that he believed his son had been detained.

Opposition activists call the apparent arrest part of a broader crackdown on pro-democracy artists and intellectuals. The secular intelligentsia was prominent in the formative days of the Syrian uprising, before the movement evolved into an armed insurrection against the government of President Bashar Assad.

‘It seems it is a crime to establish an independent cinema movement in Syria,’ a fellow Syrian filmmaker, Ahmad Malus, said in a video statement recorded outside Syria, the Reuters news agency reported.

Syrian authorities have detained tens of thousands of people during an almost 18-month crackdown on dissent and armed rebels. Relatives of those detained are seldom, if ever, notified that their loved ones have been arrested, human rights group say.

Nairabiya founded the DOX BOX International Documentary Film Festival, an annual series that has attracted considerable attention in the region and elsewhere and garnered international support. This year, DOX BOX organizers decided not to hold the festival in Syria, in protest against the violence.

‘We are outraged, disheartened and anguished at the silence of the world as it has witnessed the massacre of our people,’ the organizers said in a message on the web explaining their decision. ‘Silence is complacency.’


Nairabiya is a graduate of the prestigious High Institute for Dramatic Arts in Damascus, where he studied acting and starred in several films before moving to film production. In 2002, along with a fellow Syrian fellow filmmaker, Diana El Jeiroudi, he established Proaction Film, one of the few independent production houses in Syria. The company mainly focuses on issues of social justice and gender.

Opposition activists reported Saturday that Syrian security forces had also arrested Mohammad Omar Oso, a popular actor who starred in several TV series and reportedly has taken part in antigovernment protests. Oso was detained with several family members, said a Syrian theater director who said he knew of the case.

‘The Syrian regime is targeting now all groups of Syrian society without exception: workers, intellectuals, filmmakers,’ said the theater director, who asked to be identified only by his first name, Jameel, citing fear of reprisals. ‘The regime is becoming worse as it feels more surrounded.’

The Syrian government says it is fighting ‘terrorists’ and ‘mercenaries,’ including Islamic militants, armed and financed from abroad.

Earlier this month, another Syrian filmmaker, Bassam Yahia al Din, who was an Assad supporter, was killed by gunmen in front of his house near Damascus, Syria’s official media reported. The motive remains a mystery.


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--Rima Marrouch