It’s been almost three years since South African photographer Shiraaz Mohamed was kidnapped in Syria. On Monday, a video of a man believed to be Mohamed pleading for his release sparked concerns.
Here’s a timeline of his kidnapping:
January 2017 – No word from Mohamed
Four days of no signs of Mohamed led to a search for the photographer, who had gone to Syria with Gift of The Givers. The organisation’s founder, Imtiaz Sooliman confirmed Mohamed had been working with the group and was abducted on his way to the Turkish border. Sooliman said initially the men who kidnapped Mohamed said they needed to question him and promised to bring him back in two days.
January 2017 – A warning to his family
Mohamed’s ex-wife, Shaaziya Brijlal, said he had warned that he might be abducted, but did not think much of it, as he anticipated the SA government and Gift of The Givers would negotiate his release.
“There’s a risk I might be detained tomorrow, no big deal, SA government and [relief organisation] Gift of the Givers will get me out. I need you to communicate with my family please. But, wait for my message to tell you what to do.”
February 2017 – Hopes raised for Mohamed’s return
The Truth Collective South Africa NGO, in an interview with EWN, said it was fighting to get Mohamed home. The organisation said after receiving “proof” in the form of video and a picture that he was alive, it embarked on a 12-day trip to Syria to negotiate his release.
February 2018 – Dr Ahmad Ghandour
Dr Ahmad Ghandour braved false leads and death threats while searching for Mohamed. He located his friend’s captors, who at the time were demanding $100,000 for a “proof-of-life” video.
April 2019 – Mohamed is alive
More than two years later, Gift of The Givers announced that it had received “proof of life” from Mohamed’s captors. Sooliman said Mohamed was accused of being a foreign spy.
May 2019 – New video of Mohamed
A video of Mohamed pleading for his freedom surfaced, with Gift of The Givers saying it would not pay much attention to it. The organisation said it believed the video was a modified version of a previous one, as Mohamed’s abductors had no knowledge of a video on YouTube.
A recent video, believed to be of Mohamed, is making the rounds on Facebook, raising concerns. In it, a blindfolded man is seen being taken out his cellphone, before a recording of the video starts.
He pleads with the SA government, his friends and “anyone who can help” for his release.
“My government, friends, anyone watching this who can help me, please help me. My life is still in danger. I’m living in captivity for three years. My life has become very difficult. I fear that they will put a bullet in my head,” says the man.