Hostilities stall search for missing photojournalist
JAN BORNMAN | 2017-01-30 06:40:55.0
APPEAL: Pictures of missing South African photojournalist Shiraaz Mohamed in Syria have been posted with appeals for help at the Syrian hospital where he went missing on January 10. Mohamed was kidnapped while documenting the crisis in Syria
Image by: GIFT OF THE GIVERS SA
The search for Shiraaz Mohamed, the South African photojournalist kidnapped in Syria this month, is being frustrated by fighting between groups in that war-torn country.
Mohamed, who accompanied Gift of the Givers, was kidnapped near the Turkish border while documenting the humanitarian crisis there.
Gift of the Givers founder Imtiaz Sooliman said Mohamed was taken prisoner after a “misunderstanding”. Members of a former al-Qaeda affiliate said they would help look for him.
Sooliman told of the difficulties in the search: “It has been tough in trying to trace Shiraaz in Syria, not because of a lack of cooperation, but because of fighting between different groups resulting in road closures [and] multiple checkpoints.
“This has made accessing decision makers difficult as most have switched off their mobiles [phones] for security reasons.”
He said that until Saturday there were still getting the message that Mohamed was alive.
Sooliman said the people who promised to help find Mohamed had asked for a “few days’ grace” to make further inquiries once the fighting stops”.
“We were given some encouraging news in that all the groups met on Saturday and declared a ceasefire. If this holds, freedom of movement will be much more easier.”
Sooliman said all the “connected” people came to the conclusion that Mohamed had been taken by mistake, but were afraid that freeing him would identify them.
“We have responded to this by preparing a special poster on Shiraaz with a message directed to the captors for this purpose.”
Sooliman said the posters in Arabic said: “Dear people of Syria. This is Shiraaz Mohamed during his minor pilgrimage [Umra]. He has been taken by some people. We are very sure it’s a case of mistaken identity as Shiraaz came as a photographer to help the people of Syria.
“We request that whoever has taken him to please release him somewhere safe. There will be no questions asked and we, as South Africans, will be very grateful.”