Prominent Syria artists detained for dissent

Filmmaker and actor are latest Syrian celebrities allegedly targeted for human rights work during 17-month uprising.

    Syrian authorities have arrested Orwa Nyrabia, a prominent documentary filmmaker, and Mohammad Omar Oso, a well-known actor, the latest in a string of celebrities reportedly targeted for dissent during the country's 17-month uprising.

    Nyrabia, who founded the "Damascus Dox Box" documentary film festival, was detained on Thursday at Damascus airport before boarding a plane to Cairo, Egypt's capital, friends and relatives said on Saturday. 

    Syrian police also raided the home of Oso, an actor who starred in popular TV series, and took him to an unknown place, the Damascus Media Centre activists' group said in a statement. 

    Oso's friends say he was shunned by the state after refusing to join the state-controlled actors' guild and sign statements declaring support for Assad at the start of the country's protest movement. 

    Activists say the two are victims of a wider government crackdown on prominent figures who have voiced criticism of the campaign of President Bashar al-Assad to crush dissent across the country.  

    Film monopoly

    Thirty-five year-old Nairabiya was part of a new generation of Syrian filmmakers who had defied a state ban on independent film production even before the revolt against the Syrian government, which has a monopoly on cinema and television production.

    "It seems it is a crime to establish an independent cinema movement in Syria," said fellow Syrian director Ahmad Malas, in a video statement recorded at an undisclosed location outside Syria.

    "We call for freedom for Arwa Nairabiya, an actor, producer and graduate of the Syrian Higher Cinema Institute who is always smiling," she said.

    One of Nairabiya's friends, speaking from Damascus on condition of anonymity, said he feared for the filmmaker's safety.

    "We pray that Arwa gets off lightly. The regime has been brutal toward Syria's intellectuals," the friend said. 


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