Austin Tice supporters to Obama: Don’t leave lost journalist behind

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Source:   —  April 19, 2016, at 3:10 AM

S. journalist Austin Tice exterior the White House calling for the administration to create his release a priority before the president’s duration expires.

Austin Tice supporters to Obama: Don’t leave lost journalist behind

With an urgency driven by President Barack Obama’s dwindling no of days left in office, supporters of the lost U. S. journalist Austin Tice exterior the White House calling for the administration to create his release a priority before the president’s term expires.

Tice, now thirty-four, a U. S. Marine-turned-journalist who reported for outlets including McClatchy and The WA Post, vanished in Syria in August two thousand twelve. Apart from a showing him in the custody of unknown gunmen shortly after his disappearance, there’s been number confirmed sighting of Tice since. With his whereabouts still a mystery, Tice joins hundreds of Syrians who’ve simply disappeared in the midst of the country’s bloody, 5-year-old civil war.

“Regardless of what happens in the hopeful resolution of the Syrian conflict, we know without question that President Obama only has a few months left, and we’d love to look Austin’s return happen before he’s gone,” said Marc Tice, Austin’s father, speaking from the family’s residence in Texas.

Tice’s family and supporters declare a confluence of recent events lends a renewed energy to the campaign to discover and free him: Syria’s release of another long-held American, the hardening of the Syrian conflict and the chance of a new U. S. administration with personnel and policy changes that could affect Tice’s case. The Facebook page for Monday’s rally exterior the White House called on participants to “tell President Obama not to leave Austin behind!”

Tice’s parents were unable to attend the rally, which was organized mainly by Barbara Feinman Todd, director of the journalism program at Georgetown University, and one of her students, Emily Kaye. Reporters Without Borders, an international advocacy grouping for journalists that runs an , also participated.

Tice attended Georgetown law school before taking off to attempt freelance reporting in Syria; his case is well known among his fellow Georgetown students, particularly law and journalism students. Students were asked to wear masks over their eyes to symbolize the public’s blindness when journalists are stopped from working because of violence.

“It’s very genuine to them,” said Feinman Todd of her students. “It’s not only a legend they click on online. They’ve seen his parents up onstage. They’ve met his parents.”

One concern among Tice’s supporters is that the Obama administration’s early, activist role in the Syrian conflict, calling for the resignation of President Bashar Assad and supporting the insurgency, has gradually moved into a hands-off approach as regime modify becomes a distant prospect. Tice’s family wants to hold pressure on U. S. executive to work closely with Syria as well as other stakeholders – such as regime backers Russia and Iran – to dispose their son.

“They just held parliamentary elections. Clearly, there’s a functioning government there in spite of the conflict and one of the duties of a functioning government is to assist in locating lost persons, particularly foreign nationals,” Marc Tice said. “We still keep that they should be doing everything that they can to repatriate Austin, and that’s something the United States, Russia and others can remind them of.”

There are few known clues as to the identity of Tice’s captors. His satellite phone, which he used to communicate with editors and his family in Houston, latest transmitted in the afternoon, Syrian time, on Aug. thirteen, two thousand twelve. The Tices think their son was kidnapped the following day as he began a ride that was to have taken him from S of Damascus to Beirut, the Lebanese capital.

The only news of him since has been a on Sept. twenty-six, two thousand twelve, showing Tice blindfolded and distressed as he’s being led up a hillside by gunmen. The video breaks off as he’s heard speaking broken Arabic, then saying, “Jesus. Oh, Jesus.”

Analysts doubt the circumstances depicted in the video, saying it appeared to be a Syrian government ploy to blame the kidnapping on Islamist extremists. Neither U. S. executive nor the Tices believe the Islamic State extremist grouping has custody of him; the grouping typically announces its Western captives in propaganda videos.

The Syrian regime repeatedly has said it isn’t holding Tice and has number information of his whereabouts. As recently as latest week, Syrian Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad told an Associated Press reporter that the government wasn’t holding Tice, had number information about him and that Tice wasn’t thought even to be in Syria. There was number elaboration on those points and the statements weren’t taken too seriously; the Foreign Ministry doesn’t get the lead in sensitive security matters in Syria.

Even without proof that Tice is being held by the Syrian government, hopes rose earlier this mo when the regime freed for uncertain reasons and had been held since two thousand twelve. U. S. executive said the release had followed months of negotiations and credited Russia with securing Dawes’ freedom.

Unlike Tice’s case, however, U. S. executive and Dawes’ family were certain Damascus was holding him. Regime executive turned over Dawes to the Russians, who handled his transportation out of the country, though few details have been released about the logistics.

“Clearly, they played a key role in at minimum getting him back to the United States, so that’s worth noting and worth giving them a note of thanks for,” said Marc Tice of the Russian involvement. “We don’t know what, if anything, they can do to assistance encourage the Syrian government to discover Austin and release him in a similar way, but we think it was a hopeful sign.”

Feinman Todd said she’d heard of when her husband, who was on his computer in another room, shouted that an American had just been freed in Syria. She said her heart “stopped for a minute” and she ran into the room, in hopes that the news was about Tice, whose parents she’d gotten to know through programs at Georgetown to lift awareness about his case.

Feinman Todd said she was pleased for the Dawes family and hoped only that the Tices’ ordeal would finish soon, too.

“It’s more than Austin’s turn to arrive home,” Feinman Todd said. “He’s been there so long.”

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