Abducted South African photojournalist Shiraaz Mohamed is believed to be alive because of the response his family, and humanitarian group Gift of the Givers, received to a list of questions they had drafted when an anonymous caller said he could communicate with Mohamed.
It was those 10 questions that helped determine almost a year after Mohamed was kidnapped in Syria that he is still alive, the family said. Gift of the Givers made the announcement on Tuesday, after the family confirmed that it was only Mohamed who could have answered the questions.
According to Gift of the Givers, the anonymous caller told them that Mohamed had a message of his own to give when he received the questions: “salaams (greetings) for his mother and family and to Gift of the Givers, he is very happy with the questions and wants to be released asap”.
The caller used a middleman to deliver the questions to Mohamed. The answers were then received and sent to Gift of the Givers who confirmed with the family that they are correct.
January 10 marks a year since Mohamed was kidnapped outside a Gift of the Givers hospital in Darkoush in northern Syria near the Turkish border. Mohamed was set to leave Syria and was on his way to Turkey with Gift of the Givers when the abduction took place in rebel-held territory.
The answers mark the first public release of direct communication with Mohamed since his abduction. They are below:
1. What is the name of Shiraaz’s mother?
2. What is the name of Shiraaz’s father?
3. How many siblings does Shiraaz have?
4. What is the name of Shiraaz’s flatmate?
5. Where did Shiraaz go for *jamaat in December 2016, before he went to Syria?
6. What is the name of any friend he went with for **umrah?
7. What is the name of the masjid Shiraaz spends ***itikaaf in?
8. Which country is Shiraaz’s brother in law from?
9. Who dropped Shiraaz off at the airport before he left for Turkey/Syria?
10. What does Shiraaz’s brother in law do for a living?
*jamaat: an ideological movement in Islam. Men, and sometimes couples, in the Tablighi jamaat go on trips to raise awareness about Islam
**umrah: a pilgrimage to the holy city of Mecca
***itikaaf: a seclusion where a Muslim spends a length of time inside a mosque during the month of Ramadan
Mohamed’s family said that the answers to the questions renewed hope that Shiraaz will return home safely and brought happiness at a time when his mother is battling a heart condition.
“We are very happy with the news, it brings added hope especially during my mother’s illness. We ask that everyone continue to pray for our brother’s safe and swift return,” Sumaya Mohamed, Shiraaz’s sister, said.
The reasons why Mohamed was taken and what his kidnappers want in exchange for his return remain unknown.