Shiraaz Mohamed still held in war ravaged Syria


Zodidi Mhlana

It has been 11 months since South African photojournalist Shiraaz Mohamed was kidnapped in northern Syria and it’s still unclear who is holding him.

Mohamed was abducted close to the Turkish border on January 10 this year. No ransom demands have been made.

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Mohamed’s former wife and close friend, Shirley Brijlal was hopeful about the situation.

“We are hoping and praying for him. There’s stuff happening but it’s very slow. The situation is very fluid in Syria. Shiraaz is essentially a victim of human trafficking. Any kind on attention on him will put too much focus on him and that’s not something we want. Why else would somebody kidnapped him,” she said

Brijlal described Mohammed as a “passionate lensman” who was passionate about highlighting social issues.

“I’m confident that he will return home. There’s so much happening in the South of Joburg and if he was here, he would be covering everything,” She added.

Previously, Intelligence minister David Mahlobo said that the government was working hard to ensure the release of Mohamed in Syria.

Mohamed’s sister Sumaya Shiraaz declined to comment.  Mohamed’s entry into the torn country had been organised by charity group, Gift of the Givers.

The photojournalist celebrated his 39 birthday in captivity in April this year.

International Relations and Cooperation department spokesperson, Nelson Kgwete said: “We don’t have any progress that we can report on the case at the moment. We don’t have any definite answers about where he is being kept. We believe that it’s one of the military groups that are operating in Syria that kidnapped him, but we can’t point to a specific group. We recognise that the phenomenon of kidnapping is prevalent in Syria.”

He said that the country’s embassy which is based in Damuscus was looking into the matter.

“We have no proof that he is still alive. We can’t say what condition he is in. The embassy is operational We have no proof that he was a victim of human trafficking. We don’t know the motivation behind his kidnapping. The embassy continues to work with the authorities in Syria to look for him and we are hopeful that he will be found alive. We will never rest until he is found alive. The embassy works with the all the interested stakeholders including the Gift of the Givers,” Kgwete said.

No individual or group has claimed responsibility for his kidnapping.

Gift of the Givers Imtiaz Sooliman said because of the sensitivity of the issue he was unable to comment.