Four days of silence: No sign of SA photographer kidnapped in Syria

14 January 2017 - 13:15
By Matthew Savides
Photojournalist Shiraaz Mohamed Picture: Facebook
Photojournalist Shiraaz Mohamed Picture: Facebook

The hunt is on for a South African photographer who was kidnapped in Syria four days ago and hasn’t been seen since.

Shiraaz Mohamed was on his way to the war-torn country’s border with Turkey when his vehicle was accosted.

Gift of the Givers founder Imtiaz Sooliman confirmed that Mohamed was with a team from the aid organisation’s hospital in Syria when the hijacking happened.

“Shiraaz was on his way with two of our people to the Turkish border on his way out of Syria. They took the road they normally take when transporting patients by ambulance. It’s a relatively safe route. There’s never been an incident here in all these years‚” he said via text message.

He said the vehicle was driving past the Al Hilal Hospital when two cars suddenly boxed them in.

“Our driver hooted at them to move out of the way. A few men with guns got off‚ were very calm and came to the car. They opened the doors‚ put a gun to the head of our two people and looked at Shiraaz. Our people told them not to take Shiraaz as it could harm support for the hospital. They replied that they think that there is some misunderstanding and that they need to question him and will return him in two days‚” said Sooliman.

The three were blindfolded and driven about an hour. Their captors‚ who confiscated a cellphone from the men‚ then stopped the vehicle and began asking questions about Mohamed.

“They asked if Shiraaz is a foreigner. Our people replied yes. They asked if he has a passport. They said yes. They asked if he’s Muslim they said yes. They asked about the Turkish delegation that entered Syria earlier that day. They said they don’t know. They asked about Dr Ahmad who heads the Gift of the Givers Hospital. They said everyone knows him because he helps everyone.

“They then released the two and returned the cellphone. When our two asked who they were. They said they represent all groups inside Syria. When they asked where they were now. They gave the name of the area and precise location. Our [guys] said don’t harm Shiraaz because he is a guest.

 “They said they only want to question him and will return him in two days to the Gift of the Givers Ar Rahma Hospital. They want to clear a misunderstanding. What misunderstanding we don’t know‚” said Sooliman.

The Department of International Relations and Cooperation (DIRCO) was being informed of the incident.