Shiraaz Mohamed. Picture: Supplied
Johannesburg - The family of kidnapped photojournalist Shiraaz Mohamed are hoping to have him home by Christmas through a public appeal for help to raise funds for his upkeep and secure his freedom.

Mohamed’s ex-wife, Shaaziya Brijlal, told The Star yesterday that the family required urgent assistance to help raise $700000 (R10.3million) in exchange for Mohamed’s freedom. Brijlal said the negotiation team said this was not a ransom amount, but Mohamed’s captors costs for keeping him alive during his captivity.

“We have really tried to raise that money and we reached out to businesses but it’s an epic task, and it is not something that we can do on our own,” said Brijlal

Mohamed was abducted on January 10, 2017 in the vicinity of Gift of the Givers Ar Rahma Hospital in Darkoush, Syria. Mohamed was on an assignment to capture the experiences and suffering of the Syrian people. The freelance photojournalist was on his way back to the Turkish border after completing an assignment, when he was kidnapped by a group of armed men.

The family have received several proofs of life since his abduction with the most recent being a letter received on September 3 and a video on September 23 where the group demanded the money in exchange for Mohamed’s freedom.

Brijlal denied the rumour that her ex-husband had defected to the Islamic State and called the allegations “preposterous”.

“There is no way, and Shiraaz (Mohamed) is not a militant person. He went to Syria on an assignment with the Gift of the Givers, so that kind of talk is preposterous and if it was Islamic State, they would have asked for far more money,” she said.

Brijlal added that Mohamed’s negotiation team, which included the family’s own negotiators, the Department of International Relations and Co-operation’s consular services and international partners who are highly skilled in the war zones of the area, engaged in negotiations to establish a relationship with his captors and bring their demand down from $1.5m.

“We reached a common understanding that Shiraaz (Mohamed) isn’t a political leader or the head of our country. He is a normal working-class photojournalist and the family is of humble means,” she said.

Brijlal said the family initially tried to garner support from governmental organisations, businesses and aid organisations but were not successful.

“We went through those networks but I think going public creates a whole new dimension to the awareness of our crisis and the urgency of the situation,” she said.

Brijlal said the urgency to raise money for Mohamed was emphasised because recent news reports indicated that time was running out for the captors, as rebel groups in Syria were becoming desperate because of government forces, assisted by Russian airstrikes. The forces are rapidly overrunning the rebel group’s territory, she said.

“In light of the imminent danger to Shiraaz’s life, we are keen to conclude on Shiraaz’s release and so are his captors,” she said.

The family said they were hoping to create worldwide attention of Mohamed’s plight and get him home before Christmas. 

The Star