Gift of the Givers: We believe Shiraaz Mohamed is alive

South African photojournalist Shiraaz Mohamed, who was abducted in Syria 13 days ago, is alive, according to “connected people” there, the humanitarian aid organisation Gift of the Givers said in a statement on Monday. 

The identity of Mohamed’s captors and his location is also known, and the organisation has some of his possessions.

But Gift of the Givers have not yet received proof that Mohamed is alive. The organisation says it has learned from a network of people who are searching for Mohamed in Syria that he is. 

The organisation’s founder, Dr Imtiaz Sooliman, says airstrikes and tensions between different groups in Syria are “challenges” that have hampered efforts to secure Mohamed’s release.

“But in spite of these challenges we have received excellent co-operation through ‘connected’ people who, through their own individual research and ‘networks’, have confirmed that Shiraaz is alive – just their word on this but no proof of life,” Sooliman said in a written statement.

He added that the network of people working to find Mohamed also know the identity of the “group” who has captured Mohamed. In Syria, Sooliman says, members of a group can be divided along factional lines. Mohamed’s captors seem to be divided, because members of the group have allegiance to different factions. 

“Many factions belong to the various groups. Sometimes one faction doesn’t know what the other is doing. In this case one faction has taken Shiraaz but the other factions know nothing about it.”

Mohamed’s location is also known and Sooliman says Gift of the Givers now has possession of Mohamed’s belongings, including his laptop, and camera.

The news comes after close to two weeks of no information about Mohamed’s captors, where he has been taken and whether he is alive. The photojournalist was in Syria on assignment with Gift of the Givers when he kidnapped in the northern town of Darkoush near the Turkish border. He was on his way back to Turkey when the car he was travelling in was ambushed on January 10. Since then, Gift of the Givers and the Department of International Relations and Co-operation have been searching for him.

Mohamed’s former wife and friend, Shirley Brijlal, released a statement saying news that Mohamed in alive is “the best news ever”.

“There were times when my confidence wavered, but we fell back on prayer and our faith. I am filled with gratitude and hope. He just needs to get home now, then all Shiraaz’s loved ones will know for sure that the nightmare of the past two weeks is over,” Brijlal said. 

Gift of the Givers has, however, been unable to independently confirm the information they have received from those on the ground searching for Mohamed. Instead, the humanitarian aid group has relied on well-known Syrian journalists to verify what the news.

“From all our interactions with the different people, including a high profile Syrian journalist, it appears that their information is credible. We can’t independently verify it as yet but we are not ignoring it,” Sooliman said.

A task team has now been organised to secure Mohamed’s release. Gift of the Givers says Anas al Hamati, a hostage negotiator from Yemen, now has a leading part in the effort to bring Mohamed home. The organisation now believes that Mohamed’s kidnapping could be “a case of mistaken identity” and his captors may have abducted the wrong person.

Sooliman says the next two days could bring more news and increasing efforts to bring Mohamed home.

“In the next 48 hours we are expecting more information so we wait patiently,” Sooliman said. “We have a very decisive plan and will use it as leverage if the need arises.”

Subscribe to the M&G

These are unprecedented times, and the role of media to tell and record the story of South Africa as it develops is more important than ever.

The Mail & Guardian is a proud news publisher with roots stretching back 35 years, and we’ve survived right from day one thanks to the support of readers who value fiercely independent journalism that is beholden to no-one. To help us continue for another 35 future years with the same proud values, please consider taking out a subscription.

Raeesa Pather
Raeesa Pather
Ra’eesa Pather is a Cape Town-based general news and features journalist.

Related stories

False dawn gives Ace all the cards

The unrepentant, recalcitrant ANC secretary general thinks it’s okay for his and other wayward comrades’ kids to loot

Sekhukhune’s five-year battle for water back in court

The residents of five villages are calling for the district municipal manager to be arrested

The media is dead, long live the king

The state of King Mswati’s health is just one of many contentious issues that cannot be reported on in eSwatini

Fees free fall, independent schools close

Parents have lost their jobs or had salaries cut; without state help the schools just can’t survive

A quick trek to ancient Egypt during lockdown

Well, the pharaonic Voortrekker Monument to be precise for John Davenport

Editorial: The public has a right to know

Transparency and accountability have lost currency in the treasury, and we are all the poorer for it.

Sekhukhune’s five-year battle for water back in court

The residents of five villages are calling for the district municipal manager to be arrested

Vaccine trial results due in December

If successful, it will then have to be manufactured and distributed

press releases

Loading latest Press Releases…

The best local and international journalism

handpicked and in your inbox every weekday