One month later the search in Syria for photojournalist Shiraaz Mohamed continues
It’s been almost a month since Johannesburg-based photojournalist Shiraaz Mohamed disappeared in Syria while travelling with the disaster relief organisation, Gift of the Givers Foundation.
The organisation said Mohamed had been kidnapped on January 10 while on his way to the Turkish border.
But a series of statements by Gift of the Givers has confused the public, with people raising questions on social media.
On January 23, Imtiaz Sooliman, founder of Gift of the Givers, said the organisation had an idea of where Mohamed was but that the information was classified.
But on Friday, the aid group released a statement that suggested they were still searching for him.
“[Our task team] has engaged many role players seeking clarification and assistance in finding Shiraaz.
“In the past 48 hours, people bearing a range of titles including NGO director, medical director, security representative and investigation representative, have either visited Gift of the Givers’ Ar Rahma Hospital or engaged us in various locations. The message is the same: there was no reason for anyone to take Shiraaz,” the statement said.
Second, the fact that no group has claimed responsibility and no demands been made casts doubts over the assertion that he had been kidnapped.
Thirteen days after Mohamed’s disappearance, Sooliman said it was normal that no ransom note would have been issued yet. Almost a month later, there is still no ransom note.
“We can’t call it an abduction if there is no ransom note,” a South African activist, Yusuf Abramjee, told The Daily Vox.
On Saturday, Abramjee said that although he had faith in Gift of the Givers, the organisation had left many questions unanswered.
In response, Sooliman said the organisation’s statements were not contradictory.
“While negotiations are going on, we need to send our teams on the ground to look for Shiraaz.
We cannot sit back and wait in a situation like this, we have to move fast.”
He said that Abramjee probably did not know how a hostage situation worked. “We cannot explain everything that is going on - there is stuff going on in the background. This is our fifth hostage situation and we cannot give every detail because it could be detrimental to the hostage,” he said.
Mohamed’s partner, Shirley Brijlal, said she had become “angry and frustrated with the people who had taken Mohamed”.
When asked about the statements made by Gift of the Givers she said: “We can’t jeopardise any efforts to locate Shiraaz by criticising the people trying to locate him.”
Gift of the Givers said Mohamed had asked the organisation to facilitate his entry into Syria to take photographs.
Mohamed texted his family a day before his disappearance, saying there was a possibility that he would be detained before leaving Syria. His text said he was confident the South African government and the Gift of the Givers would have him released. — Daily Vox