A journalist who has worked as a fixer for international media such as ABC News and NPR since 2014 and who was awarded the Kurt Schork prize for best fixer by the Thomson Reuters Foundation in 2020, Saadoun fled across the border to Erbil, the capital of Iraqi Kurdistan, three days after his heavy-handed arrest by Asayish in Raqqa on 16 June.
He told RSF he was arrested in Raqqa while working with a female reporter for the Dutch newspaper De Volkskrant. Gunmen came to his hotel room in the middle of the night and took him away without allowing him to tell the reporter.
He said they bundled him into a car, blindfolded him and drove him to a detention centre, punching and kicking him and threatening him with a rifle on the way. Once there, they subjected him to an interrogation before releasing him the next morning.
This is not the first time that Saadoun has been harassed by the Kurdish forces in northeastern Syria. He said the Asayish have been subjecting him to intimidation since the start of 2020, when he was banned from working as a journalist for four months for “harming the image of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF).
Saadoun was arrested for the first time at a checkpoint near the Iraqi border on 26 February 2021, after accompanying a foreign journalist, and it was only following pressure from family and friends that he was released the same day. The threats became more explicit at the start of May when he was summoned for interrogation and was accused of supplying information about SDF military positions and trenches, which he denies.
“The accusations made against Kamiran Saadoun are extremely serious and unacceptable,” said Sabrina Bennoui, the head of RSF’s Middle East desk. “Harassing and threatening a journalist in this way because his journalism annoys people is worthy of the most gangsterish regimes. The Kurdish administration must do everything to ensure that those responsible answer for what they did. Failure to act will amount to tacit approval.”
Saadoun’s case is not isolated. After disappearing on 16 June, freelance journalist Ahmad Mustafa Al-Hassan reappeared in an SDF detention centre in Raqqa a few days later. According to RSF’s tally, he is the fourth journalist to be detained by the SDF since the start of the year.
Syria is ranked 173rd out of 180 countries in RSF's 2021 World Press Freedom Index.