The South African Muslim Network (Samnet) has urged the South African government to spare no effort to secure the release of South African photo-journalist Shiraaz Mohamed held in captivity in Syria.
Last week, humanitarian organisation Gift of the Givers released video footage of Shiraaz pleading for his life. In the video, the frail looking photographer pleads for help from President Cyril Ramaphosa, Gift of the Givers founder Dr Imtiaz Sooliman and his family to secure his release, “saying he lives in fear of his life”. He claims that the area where he is being held hostage is being bombed by the Russian air force and they were “getting closer”.
Following this breakthrough, Gift of the Givers has since received a ransom request of 1.5 million US dollars from his captors – which Dr Sooliman said they will not pay.
Speaking to VOC on Friday, Samnet’s Dr Faisal Suliman said government is not doing enough to secure Shiraaz’s release and that his situation has not really raised the attention of the media.
Suliman said South African government particularly the Department of International Relations and Cooperation as well as the Intelligence Services should do everything in their power to secure Mohamed’s release.
“We urge government to do more. We feel the media especially mainstream media has not given the story enough coverage and attention and that’s why there has been no public knowledge and why people are not familiar with this story,” he stressed.
“Gift of the Givers are working long and hard, but they can’t do everything by themselves, they need government to intervene. The more coverage this story gets, the more pressure it places on government to do more,” he said.
On election day on Wednesday, the Mohamed family picketed at the Hitekani Primary School in Chiawelo, Soweto, ahead of President Ramaphosa’s arrival, to urge the government to assist them. They held up placards with slogans like #FreeShiraazMohamed” and “Bring my uncle Shar home now”. The family said they have been through “hell on earth” waiting for some sign that he is alive and now “time is running out”.
Dr Suliman said he is not able to comment on behalf of the family as he has no direct communication with them.
“We feel the pain and anguish of the family and we sympathise deeply. The only thing we can do at this stage is to create as much awareness as possible,” he said.
Shiraaz has been held captive in Syria since 2017 when he was kidnapped near the Gift of the Givers Ar Rahma Hospital in Darkoush, on suspicion of being a foreign spy. According to Gift of the Givers, Shiraaz was on an assignment documenting the humanitarian situation in Syria.
Since the release of the video, DIRCO has not provided any detailed comment, except to say its aware of the footage. The department said it is in contact with the Mohamed family. VOC
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