Ten years after his disappearance, Austin Tice’s family are still waiting for answers


Ten years after the American journalist Austin Tice disappeared in it Syriahis family is still awaiting action from the US government.

Tice, a freelance journalist for several news organizations including CBS News, The Washington Post and McClatchy, was kidnapped near Damascus on August 14, 2012 while covering the Syrian civil war, making him one of the longest-held American hostages made.

A short video released weeks later on YouTube and the Facebook page of supporters of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad showed a distraught, blindfolded Tice and his apparent captors. It was the last time he was seen.

Though no one has ever claimed responsibility for his disappearance, Tice’s mother, Debra, has never doubted that her son was still alive.

“I’ve never wavered. I’m not wavering now,” she said in an interview with CBS News earlier this week. “There’s no reason not to believe that he waits and hopes and dreams and plans to go free.”

Freelance journalist Austin Tice went missing in Syria in 2012 and has not been heard from since.

News service Fort Worth Star-Telegram/Tribune via Getty Images

As she has repeatedly done over the past decade, she again urged the US government to do more to get her son – a Navy veteran whom she described as having “a great laugh” and a “great personality” – home bring.

“The United States government has worked very hard to convince me that they are working on this,” she said. “My answer is: Don’t tell me. Show me.”

Tice’s parents, Debra and Marc, Meeting with President Biden at the White House in May after a long plea for a presidential meeting. Debra Tice said at that meeting Mr Biden has tasked his national security adviser, Jake Sullivan, and the National Security Council with meeting with the Syrian government to “figure out what they want.”

“The President of the United States has said get a meeting, listen, find out what they want, work with them. He set it straight,” Debra Tice said in an interview with CBS News this week.

Two Trump administration officials traveled to Syria two years ago to negotiate Tice’s release, but officials have not been able to secure his release and the Syrian government has never publicly admitted to detaining him or knowing his whereabouts. At the time, Syrian officials told CBS News that the Syrian government said no discussion about hostages could take place while US troops were in their country.

“I mean you walk in and buy a car, do you ever pay the sticker price?” said Debra Tice, explaining that she didn’t understand why the US hadn’t negotiated. “It’s so frustrating for me. It was frustrating for me when after the first meeting they left and never came back.” Debra Tice also said, “I know that the United States government has not approached the Syrian government directly to arrange a meeting apply for.”

But the Biden administration says that is not the case. A senior government official told CBS News the US “has made intensive efforts to bring Austin home, including directly with Syrian officials and through third parties.”

“Unlike in other situations where Americans are detained abroad, the Syrian government has not authorized high-level meetings to discuss Austin’s case for many months, nor has it ever admitted to detaining him,” the official said. “We will continue to pursue all avenues to secure Austin’s release.”

The official did not say whether the US has attempted to speak to the Syrian government about Tice since his parents met with Mr Biden, but the president publicly urged Syria to come to the table in a statement Wednesday.

“We know for certain that he is being held by the Syrian regime,” Biden said in a statement Wednesday. “We have repeatedly asked the Syrian government to work with us to bring Austin home. On the tenth anniversary of his kidnapping, I call on Syria to stop this and help us bring him home.”

Marc and Debra Tice, parents of U.S. journalist Austin Tice, who was kidnapped in Syria, each hold dated portraits of him during a news conference in the Lebanese capital Beirut July 20, 2017.

JOSEPH EID/AFP via Getty Images

Foreign Minister Antony Blinken said in a statement on Wednesday that the President’s special envoy for hostage matters, Roger Carstens, “will continue to work with the Syrian government.”

The FBI has again requested information on Tice’s whereabouts and has offered a $1 million reward.

Debra Tice says she tries not to think about what life was like for her son.

“The most important thing for us as a family is to hold onto the fact that we will never get to know him in prison. We will always know him as a free man,” she said. “I don’t think it’s productive to imagine something I can’t imagine.”

She has had plenty of time to reflect on the barriers of US bureaucracy that have left her family helpless, as well as regrets that she did not go to Damascus immediately when Austin disappeared.

“I’ve had 10 years to think about missteps,” she said, “and it’s really painful.”

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