Heartfelt vigil for Shiraaz
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.
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.