Actor Jamal Suleiman Will Not Return To Syria

“I will not return to Syria until I feel that I am safe as a Syrian citizen and not subject to threats."

By: Wissam Kanaan

Published Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Syrian actor Jamal Suleiman indefinitely postponed his return to Damascus Sunday after receiving threats stoked by his rumored support of Al Jazeera’s coverage of the Syrian uprising.

On Sunday night, dozens of Syrian media figures and artists coordinated Jamal Suleiman’s (b.1959) welcome at Damascus International Airport. Suleiman was to return from Qatar after participating in the Doha Tribeca Film Festival. But he postponed his return indefinitely. In a phone interview with al-Akhbar, the Syrian artist said, “I am not returning to Syria...I have changed my destination to Egypt until God decides.”

When asked about the reasons behind his decision, Suleiman answered, “I will not return to Syria until I feel that I am safe as a Syrian citizen and not subject to threats. Or at least until the authorities acknowledge the threats and incitement against me. The least they can do is close down the notorious website that was behind the rumor that I spoke with Al Jazeera channel.” Suleiman added that upon arriving in Egypt, he will issue a press release to clarify the circumstances surrounding his decision.

Jouhina news website had circulated apparently false information that, during his stay in Qatar, Suleiman thanked Al Jazeera in the name of Syrian artists for its ‘honorable’ coverage of the Syrian popular protests. The website launched a campaign against Suleiman in a report published last week titled “Jamal Suleiman Exonerates Al Jazeera from the Blood of Syrians.” The report asked, “Do the temptations and money of the Gulf require that one sell his country and his people’s dignity?”

Even though Suleiman discredited the Jouhina report, the website’s moderators did not publish an apology or correction. On the contrary, the campaign against Suleiman only intensified in what seemed to be a personal settling of scores between the website’s editors and the artist.

The website is still publishing hundreds of abusive comments with insults, obscenities, and accusations of treason against the famous actor. A photo of Suleiman with a cross on his face, indicating that he is not welcome back in Syria, has circulated on websites and social network pages — especially on Facebook.

This article is an edited translation from the Arabic Edition.

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