Fears for safety of lensman in Syria
Said to have been captured over so-called misunderstanding
THE DISAPPEARANCE of Joburg-based photojournalist Shiraaz Mohamed has raised many questions, while his family pray for the best.
Mohamed is believed to have been kidnapped on Tuesday by individuals who said they “represent all groups inside Syria” near the Gift of the Givers Foundation’s Al-Hilal Hospital.
The kidnappers are said to have singled out Mohamed in the group he was travelling with to take him in for questioning regarding a “misunderstanding”. Gift of the Givers was hosting Mohamed in Syria as he documents the lives of adults and children in the wartorn country, and is currently spearheading efforts to bring the lensman home safely.
Shirley Brijlal, Mohamed’s ex-wife, who still remains close to him, said his family were trying to remain positive while trying to find out more information.
“When we first heard the news we were all devastated. But now we are all trying to make sense of all the information we are receiving. Apparently he was singled out for questioning, and we just don’t understand why,” Brijlal said.
They were counting on the foundation to bring back the man she has loved for 13 years.
“We are counting on them to bring him back safely because he was their guest. They have been very co-operative, giving us constant feedback and explaining to us some of the things we may not understand,” she said.
A statement released by the charity said one of the medical staff members at one of the foundation’s hospitals, Dr Ahmad Ghandour, was taken into questioning on Friday by the investigation department of An Nusra (now Fath Al Sham), a former al-Qaeda affiliate, to answer questions regarding the “misunderstanding” that was mentioned when Mohamed was kidnapped.
The foundation’s founder and chief executive Dr Imtiaz Sooliman detailed the events of the questioning, stating that Ghandour was asked what the “misunderstanding” was that the kidnappers had spoken of.
“They wanted to know if Shiraaz had some disagreement with Ahmad. Ahmad replied that, on the contrary, Shiraaz was invited to have meals and sleep at his home and that he had taken Shiraaz to some of the areas to take his pictures,” Sooliman said in a statement.
He added that Ghandour was to take Mohamed to Aleppo, but that trip was called off over safety concerns. He added that the doctor informed the questioners of the displeasure of the charity organisation over Mohamed’s capture.
“Ahmad conveyed Gift of the Givers’ message, which had to be passed on to everyone, that we’re extremely annoyed with this incident. Gift of the Givers have supported the Syrian people with massive humanitarian life-saving projects for four years.
“This was predominantly South African support and an insult to us that a South African was captured. This South African had come to record the hardship of the Syrian people to garner more international support,” he said.
The Department of International Relations and Co-operation is also trying to secure Mohamed’s safe return, but said it still had no information regarding his whereabouts.
A joyful Syrian boy runs through the mud. This photo is among the last sent by South African photojournalist Shiraaz Mohamed, who was abducted by armed men near the Turkish border while on assignment for the Gift of the Givers charity in Syria. His family is reported to be anxious about his wellbeing.
Dressed in shades of pink, two young girls await the Chinese New Year celebrations in Commissioner Street in Joburg, where the Year of the Goat was celebrated on February 21, 2015. The Chinese New Year is celebrated by Chinese communities all over the world.
A cyclist giving his all in the 947 Cycle Challenge captured from the top of a bridge in Joburg in 2015. More than R14.3 million was raised for charity in that year.
A boy rides a donkey while his parents vote at a polling station in Ha Khoabane on the outskirts Maseru in the elections in 2015, following a mediation in the aftermath of the 2014 political crisis.
These photos, above and below, of young children in Syria are among the last sent by photojournalist Shiraaz Mohamed, kidnapped in Syria while working for the Gift of the Givers.
An aerial view of the 55-storey Ponte building in Berea, Joburg. Built in 1975, at 173 metres it is still the tallest residential skyscraper on the African continent and a landmark in the city.
Shiraaz Mohamed spent time with children in Malawi while on a photographic trip to a region ravaged by floods.