17 August 2022

An SA family have gone public on the demands of a Syrian rebel group who are demanding R10-million to release a photojournalist, writes an Al Qalam Reporter

The mother of Johannesburg photojournalist Shiraaz Mohamed who was captured in Syria almost three-years-ago have made an impassioned plea to the Ummah to help raise R10-million – a new negotiated figure that his Syrian captors are now urgently demanding.

In an interview with Al Qalam, his mother Shireen Mohamed of Lenasia, said: “From me, as a mother, this is a desperate call to my fellow South Africans and the world, any organization, any individual, any Government, any country, anyone who can help, I plead with you all, if you have any means to help me in any way possible, please do so. My son needs you, my family and I need you. Please make contact with us and you can be assured that any assistance will be treated in the strictest of confidence, if so desired. Time is running out. Please help me save my son’s life.

Shiraaz went to Syria on a week-long assignment, commissioned by Gift of the Givers. His intention was to capture the experiences and suffering of the Syrian people, hoping to garner South African and worldwide support. On 10 January 2017, whilst on his way back to the Turkish border, he was kidnapped by members of an armed rebel group. That was 32-months ago.

“The people holding my son have made contact with us and we have been liaising with them since August, with the help of professional negotiators. The group have demanded that we pay $700 000.00 (over R10-million) in exchange for my son’s freedom. They have told us that this is not a ransom amount but it is their cost for my son’s maintenance and upkeep during his time of captivity.

“We have tried all avenues possible to come up with the money. No one is willing to assist us. We as a family cannot raise this amount of money by ourselves. It is an impossible task. We have tried countless organisations, individuals and even our Government, but no one is helping us.

“Our message to Shiraaz is that we – his mother, brother, sisters, brother in law and Shaaziya (former wife) are trying our very best to get you home safely. We have not deserted nor forgotten about you. You are in our thoughts and prayers every moment of every day. We love you more than anything and we will never forsake you.

His mother said she had briefly met President Cyril Ramaphosa on Election Day, 8 May in Chiawelo and handed him a letter. “He promised to give the matter his urgent attention. To date, we have not heard back from the Presidency.”

His former wife Shaaziya Brijlal (Shirley) told Al Qalam: “The South African government, like many others around the world, has a policy of not negotiating with terrorist groups. It becomes the responsibility of the family to do this.

“Over the past month and more, we tried everything to raise these monies without going public. Unfortunately, we realised we cannot do this alone and that time is running out for Shiraaz.

“Recent media reports indicate that time is also running out for his captors as ‘rebel groups in Syria are becoming increasingly desperate as government forces, assisted by Russian airstrikes, and are rapidly overrunning their territory’”.

“In light of the imminent danger to Shiraaz’s life, we are keen to conclude on Shiraaz’s release and so are his captors,” she added.

Shaaziya said: “We are in the process of opening a relief fund account, the details of which will be available inshaaAllah, in the next few days.  Please note that Zakaat monies can be used to free a captive and we humbly appeal to our fellow Muslim brothers and sisters to please help our family bring Shiraaz home.”

If you can be of any assistance, please contact Shaaziya Brijlal (former wife) on 082 772 0989 or Ridwaan Mohamed (brother) on 071 377 1175.

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