Cape Town photojournalist Shiraaz Mohamed is still alive. Disaster relief organisation Gift Of the Givers announced today that they have received proof of life.
Tomorrow will mark exactly one year since Mohamed was captured in the war torn country Syria, while on his way back to the Turkish border in the company of Gift of the Givers. Mohamed was kidnapped with two other drivers, who were released shortly after and he was held for questioning.
Imtiaz Sooliman, founder of Gift of the Givers, said on Tuesday that they had received proof of life from Dr Ahmad Ghandour, the head of Gift of the Givers Ar Rahma Hospital in Syria.
Ghandour has been at the forefront of the year-long search for Mohamed. On December 26, he received this message: “Don’t talk to anyone but us, we are the door to Shiraaz.”
The organisation responded to the message and said they received numerous messages, so to prove Mohamed was alive they prepared a list of 10 questions that only he could answer.
“The voice said, ‘send the questions, you will have the answers soon’. On 2 January the call came again: ‘My man is in Syria, he has met Shiraaz, the questions have been answered, we await his return’,” Sooliman said.
At around 8pm on Monday evening they received a message that Shiraaz send “salaams” for his mother and family.
“Through Dr Ahmad Ghandour’s relentless efforts we started receiving messages from 28 September from at least eight different sources that Shiraaz was alive, one such source stating that he was with Shiraaz on 17 November. But we couldn’t give Shiraaz’s family false hope as the information could not be verified no matter how credible the source,” Gift of the Givers said in a statement.
Last night was the turning point as Shiraaz’s family confirmed that all ten questions were correctly answered and it could only be from Shiraaz. The family were ecstatic.
“The timing couldn’t have come at a more important time as the mother had been admitted to hospital on New Year’s eve with a cardiac condition. The waiting and uncertainty had taken its toll. Finally, we have proof of life. This was major healing for her. Now comes the daunting challenge – why was Shiraaz captured and what do they want? We await that ‘voice’,” the statement said.