On 10 January 2017 South African photo journalist Shiraaz Mohamed was kidnapped in Syria by unknown armed men. Mohamed, an independent photographer, was on assignment in Syria, to work with NGO Gift of The Givers. According to the Gift of The Givers (GotG) personnel with Mohamed when the kidnapping occurred, the kidnappers asked about Mohamed’s nationality, passport and religion. GotG co-founder Imtiaz Sooliman said the kidnapper told them that they are taking Mohamed for questioning as there was some misunderstanding, and they would bring him back in two days, but this didn’t happen. Since Mohamed’s kidnapping, the group responsible has not asked for any ransom.
South Africa’s Department of International Relations has been informed of the kidnapping, and while GotG has an idea who the kidnappers are, this information cannot be revealed for fear of further harm coming to Mohamed. GotG is a disaster relief organisation mainly active on the African continent, but it is also well-established in northern Syria where it provides medical services and other aid. GotG said, “We have a plan and will use it as leverage if the need arises. But for now, we want to resolve the issue in a peaceful way as no one really understands why he was taken. It may be a case of mistaken identity, so we are allowing a little more time for the processes to unfold in the best interests of Mohamed.”
Residents of Darkush, Syria were reported to have protested in the streets against the capture of Mohamed, demanding his release. One of the placards were written “Shiraaz Mohamed is aid worker not enemy”. Community members, friends, colleagues and family also protested in the streets, marching from Ennerdale to the Civic Centre in Lenasia South chanting “Free Shiraaz Mohamed”.
Mohamed become a photographer about two years ago when he captured human suffering on a number of humanitarian missions including the earthquake in Nepal, floods in Malawi and xenophobic violence in Johannesburg.
On Monday, 23 January 2017, the family of Mohamed received information from the GotG that Mohamed is still alive, and his belongings including his camera, are with the NGO.