South African photojournalist Shiraaz Mohamed is back in the country after almost three years in captivity in Syria. Mohamed’s family confirmed on Friday that he has now returned safely to the country. VOC News tried to contact the family for comment but they have released a statement asking for space considering the events they have endured since 2017 and will engage with media in due course.
On Friday, Reuters reported that Mohamed had safely returned home after escaping what is presumed to have been ISIS militants in Syria. There remains no confirmation from the Department of International Relations as to his current status. Salaamedia reported that sources close to the story indicate that he has in fact been handed over to South African diplomatic staff in Turkey.
Mohamed was abducted on the 10th January 2017 in Darkoush. While it was widely reported he had travelled with Gift of the Givers, its founder Dr Imtiaz Sooliman clarified Shiraaz had gone on his own accord as a photojournalist to capture the suffering of the Syrian people.
Gift of the Givers initiated worldwide attention around Mohamed’s capture and tried extensively to negotiate for his release. However, Sooliman said the family decided to rope in the assistance of a Turkish volunteer with the organisation who invited Mohamed to Syria, which led to the NGO withdrawing from the case in June 2019. Dr Sooliman also said he advised the family against speaking to multiple groups or using multiple negotiators in Syria as this often complicated the situation.
The family believes Dr Sooliman had failed in his promises to free Mohamed from his captors and because of the slow progress, were forced to go with another negotiator.
There remains a tension between Dr Sooliman and the family, after he broke the story of the photojournalist’s freedom last month. Mohamed’s mother has slammed Dr Sooliman in the media, saying his announcement was premature and may endanger Mohamed’s life. She has accused the NGO founder of complicating his return back to South Africa.