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SKeyes Center for Media and Cultural Freedom - Samir Kassir Foundation

Austin Tice’s suffering is great and constant. It’s time to end it.

Wednesday , 19 August 2020

We have regularly called attention to the plight of Austin Tice, the journalist and former Marine captain whose freelance reports from Syria appeared in The Post and other outlets, and who was kidnapped there in 2012. Generally we recall his captivity during the first week of August, the anniversary of his seizure. This year we waited to illustrate a point that Mr. Tice’s parents have driven home: Mr. Tice lives his nightmare every day, year-round, year after year.

U.S. officials believe that Mr. Tice is still alive, though no one knows for sure who is holding him or why. He may well be living in hellish circumstances in Syria. He recently turned 39 years old in captivity, and has lost nearly 3,000 days of freedom. Somewhere, he may be staring at blank walls, probably with little sense of time or place, wondering if he will ever break the endless, monotonous, inhuman captivity. His suffering is great and constant — and it is time to end it.

Mr. Tice’s parents have been tireless in pursuing his release. His mother, Debra, recalled at the National Press Club in January that in 2014 she spent 83 days in Damascus searching for information about him. She reached out every day on the street and in offices for any strand of hope or help. “Finally,” she said, “after six weeks of what I call my mosquito method — of reaching out every day, six weeks of daily phone calls — I was given a message from a highly placed Syrian official. This is a quote: ‘I will not meet with the mother. Send a United States government official of appropriate title.’ ” She added that she has been pressing the United States government ever since to engage with Syria to win Mr. Tice’s release.

In March, President Trump announced he had sent Syria a letter about Mr. Tice’s plight, saying, “We’re working very hard with Syria to get him out. We hope the Syrian government will do that. We are counting on them to do that. . . . So, Syria, please work with us. And we would appreciate you letting him out.” That was an appeal from as high a level in the government as you can get. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a statement Aug. 14 that Mr. Trump in the letter had proposed “direct dialogue” with Syria about the case.

Syria is a broken wreck of a country and one of the world’s worst humanitarian disasters. President Bashar al-Assad’s regime appears to have survived the civil war, but at an enormous cost. Holding an American freelance journalist hostage brings nothing. It cannot change the outcome of the war nor hasten recovery. We assume from previous statements by U.S. officials that Mr. Assad has the means to free Mr. Tice, or to persuade the captors to let him go. He ought to do so immediately, to spare Mr. Tice another day of agony and staring at blank walls.

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