South African photojournalist Shiraaz Mohamed File picture: AP
South African photojournalist Shiraaz Mohamed File picture: AP

Hunt for #ShiraazMohamed boosted by Syrian protest

By Masego Panyane Time of article published Jan 17, 2017

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Johannesburg - The family of kidnapped South African photojournalist Shiraaz Mohamed are remaining hopeful as they head into the first week since his capture by unidentified armed men in Syria.

His ex-wife Shirley Brijlal said they were kept hopeful by the new information they received, particularly that a protest in the streets of Syria demanding his release took place on Sunday.

“I must say the protest in Syria is keeping us hopeful. Having the people realise what’s happening means they’re waking up to the situation, making the chances of information getting out about Shiraaz better,” Brijlal said.

The involvement of the South African government through the Department of International Relations and Co-operation was also promising, she said.

Meanwhile, Gift of the Givers chief executive Imtiaz Sooliman said the charity had secured a meeting with Turkey’s governor, who said the country would assist in helping to locate Mohamed.

The armed group crossed the Turkish border to enter Syria.

“We spoke to the Turkish governor, who has influence in the area, and they have said they will give us any assistance possible to track down Shiraaz. They have people on the ground in parts of Syria and they will assist us in tracking him down,” Sooliman said.

He added that while they were worried that after six days no group had come forward to take responsibility for the kidnapping or make demands, the protest action in the streets of Syria by ordinary community members gave them hope.

“The people are holding protests in Syria with large pictures of Shiraaz and they’re saying they want him released. This is also spreading information in the community so it gives us hope,” Sooliman said.

Even though the situation in Syria was volatile, the Gift of the Givers’ experience of working in the region meant they stood a better chance of locating him and continuing with relief efforts.

“We’ve been in Syria for four years. Because of the ceasefire this is the most quiet it has been since we started working in the region. So while other people view the area as volatile, we know how to work in it,” Sooliman said. “We are working with the Department of International Relations and Co-operation and also using our own processes to find Shiraaz.” Sooliman said.

The Star

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