Syrian film producer and founder of the pan-Arab DOX BOX Film Festival Orwa Nyrabia is believed to have been arrested by Syrian authorities.
Nyrabia, 34, disappeared on Thursday evening (Aug 23) at Damascus airport where he was due to have boarded a flight for Cairo.
“According to Egyptian Airlines, he did not board the plane, which indicates that he was arrested by the Syrian authorities at the airport,” his family said in a statement.
Nyrabia, who studied film production in France, is the co-founder of Damascus-based production company Proaction Film and the documentary-focused DOX BOX Film Festival alongside Diana El-Jeiroudi.
News of Nyrabia’s arrest broke against the backdrop of fierce fighting in the Syrian capital of Damascus between the troops of President Bashar al-Assad and pro-democracy rebels in a civil war that has claimed more than 18,000 lives since it began in March 2011.
Launched in 2007, DOX BOX normally runs in Damascus, Tartous and Homs for the first two weeks of March and then tours other Arab cities as part of a pan-Arab cultural network.
This year, however, plans to hold the festival in Syria were abandoned and a DOX BOX Global day was held in more than 30 venues worldwide on March 15.
Solidarity screenings of Syrian films and documentaries were held in more than 32 venues ranging from theFrontline Club in London to the Metropolis Cinema in Beirut and the Spectacle Theater in New York.
Nyrabia and el-Jeiroudi are respected figures in the Arab filmmaking community and beyond.
Earlier this month, they won the Sarajevo Film Festival’s Katrin Cartlidge Foundation Award, set up in the memory of the late actress who passed away unexpectedly at the age of 41 in 2002, feting “independence, singularity and integrity of spirit” in cinema.
“We are honoured to receive the Katrin Cartlidge Award in Sarajevo, the city that gives us great hope at such a dark moment in Syrian history,” they said on being presented the award by actor Jeremy Irons during the festival.
Nyrabia’s family and friends have set up a facebook campaign calling for his release, Freedom for Syrian Cinema, Freedom for Orwa Nyrabia.