Heart­felt vigil for Shi­raaz

The Star Early Edition - - NEWS - SIHLE MANDA sihle.manda@inl.co.za

AS HUN­DREDS of con­cerned South Africans came to­gether last night to pray for the safe re­turn of pho­to­jour­nal­ist Shi­raaz Mo­hamed, the South African Na­tional Edi­tors’ Fo­rum (Sanef) has con­demned his ab­duc­tion in Syria.

To­day marks the eighth day since Mo­hamed’s cap­ture in the war-torn coun­try, near the Turk­ish bor­der, by uniden­ti­fied armed men.

Hun­dreds of con­cerned rel­a­tives and friends of the ab­ducted pho­tog­ra­pher crammed into the Le­na­sia South Civic Cen­tre last night, urg­ing his cap­tors to re­lease him un­harmed.

Among them were com­mu­nity mem­bers, young and old, who hoisted plac­ards in­scribed with words of sup­port. Some shook hands and ex­changed hugs as the vigil got un­der way.

Posters were plas­tered across the venue with mes­sages such as: “#BringShi­raazHome” and “#Re­leaseShi­raaz”.

Yesterday, Sanef chair­per­son Mahlatse Gal­lens re­leased a state­ment say­ing the or­gan­i­sa­tion was con­cerned over Mo­hamed’s safety and se­cu­rity, and called for his re­lease.

Ac­cord­ing to Gal­lens, Mo­hamed’s re­lease would be in recog­ni­tion of the Geneva Con­ven­tion and Ad­di­tional Pro­to­cols, “which con­sti­tute the hu­man­i­tar­ian laws that pro­tect jour­nal­ists in con­flict sit­u­a­tions”.

“We wish to re­it­er­ate that jour­nal­ism is not a crime and jour­nal­ists cov­er­ing armed-con­flict sit­u­a­tions are not com­bat­ants.

“Since truth is the first ca­su­alty of war, it stands to rea­son that ac­cu­rate, fair and bal­anced re­ports on war are crit­i­cal in in­form­ing so­ci­ety and the world at large,” she said.

“We have con­veyed our con­cern to the Mo­hamed fam­ily and we hope that their night­mare will end soon with the safe re­lease of Shi­raaz,” Gal­lens said.

Mo­hamed’s ex-wife and friend Shirley Bri­jlal in a state­ment said the wait was be­com­ing over­whelm­ing for her and the fam­ily.

“What do we say every time some­one asks how we are do­ing? We are paral­ysed with worry and con­cern for Shi­raaz. All we can do is hold on to our Cre­ator and know that His will is be­ing done to bring Shi­raaz safely back to us.”

Bri­jlal said it became more and more dev­as­tat­ing as the hours went by.

“It’s be­com­ing scarier… His mom and sis­ters will not be at­tend­ing the vigil. They send their heart­felt grat­i­tude and hope this vigil and the pub­lic sup­port will add mo­men­tum to the ef­forts be­ing made to find Shi­raaz. You all re­main in our prayers as a fam­ily.”

Bri­jlal thanked Gift of the Givers, the gov­ern­ment and the cit­i­zens of Syria for their on­go­ing ef­forts and sup­port.

PIC­TURE: NOKUTHULA MBATHA

EMO­TIONAL: Friends and fam­ily of ab­ducted pho­to­jour­nal­ist Shi­raaz Mo­hamed gather at the Le­na­sia South Civic Cen­tre last night to pray for his re­lease by his cap­tors in Syria and his safe re­turn home.

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