BREAKING NEWS: Humanitarian organisation Gift of the Givers has confirmed that after more than two years, Shiraaz Mohamed has been freed from captivity in Syria. The South African photo-journalist has been held in captivity by an unknown group in Syria since January 2017, who demanded $1.5m ransom to secure his release.
The NGO’s founder Dr Imtiaz Sooliman said “details are sketchy” but through a telephone call, he was informed that Shiraaz “escaped” from captivity and at some point was assisted by “friendly” people, who were aware of his case, due to the huge publicity Gift of the Givers initiated worldwide around Shiraaz’s capture.
“We thanked the caller for contacting us but informed him that we had withdrawn from Shiraaz’s case on 26 June 2019 as the family had decided to go with an alternative option. We asked, that even though we are no longer involved, if he would consider sending us a picture of Shiraaz to pass on to his distraught family and to ensure that it is indeed Shiraaz that he is referring to,” Sooliman explained.
Sooliman said they received one photo immediately from the caller, and late the night, he sent a second picture taken just before Shiraaz was handed over to Turkish Intelligence.
“He said in the absence of our involvement in the case it was the best option for Shiraaz given the volatility, instability and extremely dangerous situation inside Syria, coupled with Shiraaz’s understandable anxiety to get out of Syria instantly at any cost,” he said.
“We have informed Shiraaz’s family, Minister Naledi Pandor and Consular Services at DIRCO. All have acknowledged our messages. We now wait for the South African government to contact Turkish Intelligence to bring Shiraaz home as soon as practically possible.”
VOC News has contacted the family, who could not confirm Shiraaz’s escape. Shiraaz’s former wife Shaaziya Brijlal said due to the sensitive nature of his case, they believed it would be “irresponsible to make any public comment as it may endanger his life”. She said they would inform the media once they have received independent confirmation that Shiraaz is safe with the relevant authorities.
Minister of International Relations and Co-operation spokesperson Lunga Ngqengelele said they were still following up with Turkish authorities.
Shiraaz was taken hostage on 10 January 2017 in Darkoush, Syria. Gift of the Givers reiterated that he had gone on his own accord as a photojournalist to capture the suffering of the Syrian people and not as part of a GOTG delegation as previously reported.