Syrian Orient TV manager, host arrested in Turkey following discussion on torture

Syrian Orient TV manager, host arrested in Turkey following discussion on torture
Two senior employees of the pro-opposition Syrian TV channel Orient have been arrested in Turkey following a complaint by a Turkish guest who appeared on a show.
3 min read
15 March, 2023
Orient TV is now based in Dubai but used to broadcast from Turkey [Getty/archive]

A Syrian television station announced early on Wednesday that its manager and one of its presenters were arrested by Turkish security forces following a verbal altercation with a guest hours earlier.

Orient TV said the station’s manager, Alaa Farhat, and the host of the talk show Tafaseel (Details), Ahmed Alrihawi, were arrested after a Turkish analyst who was a guest on the show on Wednesday evening filed a complaint against them for accusing the Turkish state of crimes.

"The Turkish authorities arrested the director of Orient Alaa Farhat and the presenter of the Tafaseel program Ahmed Alrihawi after a complaint was filed by analyst Oktay Yilmaz, following his participation in the episode that was broadcast tonight," a statement published by Orient said.

Orient TV is supportive of the Syrian opposition and is based in the United Arab Emirates. It used to broadcast from Turkey.

The show had spoken about the torturing and killing of two Syrians over the weekend by Turkish border guards at the Bab al-Hawa crossing, which angered Yilmaz.

In video footage, Yilmaz is seen confronting Alrihawi, as the host kept asking the guest to leave the studio.

"Who are you to accuse the Turkish state of murder? You sit in our country and eat from it, then slander us?" Yilmaz says to the TV presenter.

It is not clear on what basis the Syrian journalists were arrested or how long they will remain in custody.

Syrians took to social media to express their support and solidarity with Orient and the two journalists, and slammed Yilmaz’s racist remarks.

Since the start of the Syrian conflict in 2011, Turkey has hosted over 3 million Syrian refugees, and Ankara has been directly involved in the war.

But anti-refugee sentiment has been on the rise in recent years, with many Turks blaming Syrians for Turkey's economic problem and politicians using the refugee issue as a political tool.

Turkish authorities have in recent years forcibly returned hundreds of Syrians to Syria in violation of international law.

After the powerful earthquake last month which devastated large swathes of southeast Turkey and northwest Syria, Syrians in Turkey were accused of looting based on unfounded reports and some Syrians became the victims of violent attacks .

Turkish authorities later said that thousands of Syrians had "voluntarily" returned to their country following the quake.