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Debra Tice, the mother of Austin Tice, an American journalist who has been missing in Syria since August 2012. (JOSEPH EID/AFP/Getty Images)


Mother of U.S. journalist held captive in Syria laments the meager coverage of his story

November 2, 2016

Debra Tice hasn’t seen her son Austin, the oldest of her seven children, in more than four years. Her son, aformer Marine and freelance journalist who has written for The Washington Post, among other publications, was abducted in August 2012 while reporting from Syria. He had been there for three months and was just days from returning home to the U.S.

Of the 430 reporters and citizen journalists Reporters Without Borders says are being held hostage around the world, Austin is the only one of them from the U.S. And Debra laments that his story, for more than four years now, has not received more coverage from the press. Her hope, though, is that will all change after Wednesday, when she attended the unveiling of a massive banner that will hang from the facade of the Newseum in Washington, D.C. The 24-foot banner features a black-and-white photo of a smiling Austin, under which the hashtag #FreeAustinTice is printed. To the right of his photo, a single sentence that sums up dire situation is printed: “Held captive for being a journalist since August 2012.”

Much is unknown to Debra about who and why Austin, now 35, was taken hostage. She said the State Department believes the Syrian regime is holding him. Syria’s government has denied that it’s detaining Austin, but even if that’s true, it’s possible an entity loyal to the regime is holding him. Debra learned a few details about Austin’s status, but apart from saying that he’s believed to be in good health, she’s reluctant to say what else she knows out of fear that doing so will endanger his life.

Debra Tice speaks about her son Austin Tice, the only American journalist held captive in Syria, duing the unveiling of a new banner calling for his release at the Newseum in Washington, DC on November 2, 2016. / AFP / Andrew CABALLERO-REYNOLDS (Photo credit should read ANDREW CABALLERO-REYNOLDS/AFP/Getty Images)
Debra Tice speaks about her son Austin Tice, the only American journalist held captive in Syria, duing the unveiling of a new banner calling for his release at the Newseum in Washington, D.C., on November 2, 2016. (ANDREW CABALLERO-REYNOLDS/AFP/Getty Images)

“Austin’s captors have to reach out and let us know what they expect,” she told The Washington Post in an interview the day before the banner’s unveiling. “They need to be aware, this is an opportunity. It could be quite a long period of time before they are able to approach a new administration.”

In addition to being an award-winning journalist, Debra told NPR radio host Diane Rehm in an interview on Tuesday, he also has plans to be a lawyer. “He began law school in 2004,” Debra said. “And in the summer between his second year of school and his last year, he made the decision to go to Syria.” Due to his capture, Austin is “currently one of the longest enrolled students at Georgetown Law School,” she added.

The banner at the Newseum will stay posted where it is now until Austin is returned home safely to his family in Houston. Debra remains hopeful that day will come.

The only time his captors have made contact with her is six weeks after they took him hostage. She received a link to a YouTube video that showed her son being led along a rocky hillside while blindfolded. He was surrounded by armed militants and was reciting verses from the Koran in Arabic, when he suddenly interjected just two words in English. That’s the last time Debra saw her son alive.

Read the full story at The Washington Post.


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