News about Austin

November 2, 2016

NEWSEUM AND REPORTERS WITHOUT BORDERS UNVEIL BANNER FOR AUSTIN TICE

Debra Tice, Austin Tice's mother, delivers remarks at the banner's unveiling on Nov. 2.

Debra Tice, Austin Tice’s mother, delivers remarks at the banner’s unveiling on Nov. 2.

On Nov. 2, the International Day to End Impunity for Crimes Against Journalists, the Newseum and Reporters Without Borders (RSF) unveiled a banner on the Newseum’s facade asking for the safe return of journalist Austin Tice. The banner, which faces Pennsylvania Avenue, features a photo of Tice and the message, “Held captive for being a journalist since August 2012.” Tice is the only American journalist held captive in Syria, according to RSF and other sources.

“Austin has been held captive in Syria for 1,542 days,” said Debra Tice, his mother, during a press conference held outside the Newseum to unveil the banner. “His captivity is indicative of the very real dangers journalists face as they exercise the fundamental human right to information, opinion and expression.”

“This banner will stay in front of the Newseum until Austin Tice is released. It will be here if he is not released before Jan. 20, when the next president walks by,” said Jeffrey Herbst, president and CEO of the Newseum.

Delphine Halgand, U.S. director of RSF, and Douglas Jehl, Washington Post foreign editor, also delivered remarks on behalf of their organizations emphasizing their commitment to Tice’s safe return.

After the press conference, Debra Tice said, “This morning, this banner has already done its work. There was a congressman jogging on his lunch hour, he saw the banner, and he stopped… and he offered to get involved in the effort to bring him home.”

Austin Tice went to Syria in 2012 as a freelance journalist to report on the conflict there. His work has been published by McClatchy Co., The Washington Post, The Associated Press, AFP, CBS, NPR and BBC. His reporting earned the 2012 George Polk Award for War Reporting, the 2012 McClatchy President’s Award and the 2015 National Press Club John Aubuchon Press Freedom Award. On Aug. 14, 2012, three days after his 31st birthday, Austin Tice was taken captive as he was preparing to travel from Daraya, near Damascus, Syria, to Beirut, Lebanon. He is alive and he is not being held by ISIS, according to diverse credible sources.



11:39

Banner unveiling event at the Newseum Speakers include Debra Tice, Austin Tice’s mother; Jeffrey Herbst, Newseum President and CEO; Delphine Halgand, RSF US Director; and Douglas Jehl, Washington Post Foreign Editor.



6:17

Debra Tice speaks about her son Austin

November 1, 2016
Image result for the washington post

Austin Tice’s mother asks her son’s captors to let her know what they expect

Debra Tice is the mother of Austin Tice, an American journalist held captive in Syria. (Jahi Chikwendiu/The Washington Post)
By Carol Morello November 1


There are many important and scary details that Debra Tice does not know about her son Austin. She has no idea exactly where he is, or who his captors have been since he vanished while reporting in Syria more than four years ago.
But of this, she is certain: Austin Tice is alive, apparently in decent health, and he is being held against his will somewhere in Syria.
“I’m trying to reach whoever is holding him and compel them to realize, it’s time to release him and let him come home,” Tice said Tuesday in an interview in Washington, where she is set to attend th
e unveiling Wednesday of a banner in her son’s honor at the Newseum.
The banner displays a photo of a smiling Austin Tice, his sunglasses pushed up jauntily on top of his head, and the succinct description of his situation: “Held captive for being a journalist since August 2012.”
It is to remain on the Newseum’s facade until he is returned safely to his family in Houston. Unless he is released before Inauguration Day, the new president will go directly past the banner on the way to and from the Capitol.

Austin Tice, who has contributed to The Washington Post, is one of at least 430 journalists and citizen journalists being held around the world, according to Reporters Without Borders. (Family photo)

“We’re very conscious of our place on Pennsylvania Avenue,” Newseum President Jeffrey Herbst said. “Our role is to bring his cause to the public. I think we’re fulfilling our mission, making sure people know that someone who wanted to inform the world of what’s happening in Syria is still missing.”

According to Reporters Without Borders, at least 430 journalists and citizen journalists are being detained around the world, either by governments or as hostages. Tice is the only American reporter among them.

A handful of countries account for many of the imprisoned reporters on the list. Turkey alone is responsible for jailing at least 130 reporters since a crackdown on the media in the wake of a failed coup in July. The other countries high on the list are China, Iran, Egypt, Vietnam and Syria.

Tice, a former Marine who is now 35, was a freelance reporter whose stories from Syria appeared in The Washington Post, McClatchy and other news outlets. His family has never received any ransom demands. The only time his captors have reached out to prove they had him was six weeks after he disappeared, when they posted a brief YouTube video showing him being led blindfolded up a rocky hillside surrounded by gunmen. He was reciting a Koranic verse in Arabic when he interjected in English, “Oh, Jesus. Oh, Jesus.”

Early in his captivity, there were reports that he had been taken by the Syrian regime. State Department officials have also said that they believe he is in the custody of the government. But lately they have had nothing new to report, and the Syrian government has denied holding Tice or knowing where he is.

Debra Tice said she cannot reveal all that she has learned about her son’s situation without endangering him, but said she believes that he is not being held by antigovernment rebels or Islamic State militants. That leaves the government, or forces loyal to it.

She admits to being frustrated that her son’s plight has not received more attention from the American public, and she said she hopes the Newseum banner changes that.

“In France, when someone is missing, the family expects to hear from the president immediately, and a banner is put up,” she said. “I’ve wondered, where are the banners for Austin?”

She said the Obama administration has been helpful and collaborative since adopting a new hostage policy in 2015 and naming a special hostage envoy. Debra and Marc Tice met with President Obama in July, and he assured the parents that he is committed to their son’s safe return. She holds out hope that it will happen before Obama leaves office in January.

“Austin’s captors have to reach out and let us know what they expect,” she said. “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.”

One thing that the past four years have taught her, she said, is that many Americans are apathetic to the danger journalists sometimes face.
“I consider the banner at the Newseum to be a call to Americans to protect and respect journalists,” she said. “Austin’s captivity and the lack of passion about getting him home represents a complacency about journalists. Where do we hear the relentless voice calling for the release of this journalist? Where do we see the counter on TV that’s a piece of our daily bread? This journalist has spent 1,451 days in captivity. It’s appalling.”
Read more:
Austin Tice: ‘It’s nice and all, but please quit telling me to be safe’
Obama administration to stop threatening prosecution of hostage families for paying ransom


June 22, 2016


4 hostage families make a plea: Bring home Austin Tice

An essay by Diane and John Foley, parents of James Foley; Ed and Paula Kassig, parents of Abdul-Rahman Peter Kassig; Carl, Marsha and Eric Mueller, parents and brother of Kayla Mueller; Shirley and Arthur Sotloff, parents of Steven Sotloff.

One year ago this week, following the torture and killing of two of our American journalists, James Foley and Steven Sotloff, and two of our American humanitarian aid workers, Peter Kassig and Kayla Mueller, President Barack Obama made a commitment to improve our government’s dismal record on the return of American hostages.

The president ordered a new government hostage policy, accompanied by a presidential policy directive, representing a much-needed effort to clarify and coordinate the government’s response to hostage-taking. The directive outlines the processes by which “the United States Government will work in a coordinated effort to leverage all instruments of national power to recover U.S. nationals held hostage abroad, unharmed.”

Austin, a freelance journalist, Marine veteran and Georgetown law student, has been held hostage in Syria since August 2012. His safe return will satisfy a significant and necessary measure of the success of the new policy. Austin is the only American reporter being held hostage anywhere in the world, according to Reporters Without Borders. At the recent White House correspondents’ dinner, President Obama committed “to fight for the release of American journalists held against their will.” We were stunned and disheartened when the president chose not to refer by name to Austin, the only American news journalist being held against his will.

We, the family of Kayla Mueller, are haunted every day by the fact that we didn’t secure Kayla’s release, by the extraordinary hope she held during her terrifying captivity, by the horrific torture we now know she endured, by the missed opportunities and by the deadly silence that cost all the hostages their lives. Our hearts are broken and our hope is that our government will do all it is able to bring Austin and all hostages home safely. No additional U.S. citizens should have to endure the silence of our country, with that silence filled only by the terrorists holding them.

We, the family of the late journalist Steven Sotloff, remind President Obama of the following: You told us in person that if it were your daughters, you would do anything in your power to bring them home. We implore you: Bring Austin Tice home.

We, the parents of James Foley, say: Mr. President, after the horrific executions of our son James Foley and the other courageous Americans, you agreed with us that America could do better! We are counting on you to keep your promise by bringing Austin Tice home before you leave office!

We, the parents of Abdul-Rahman Peter Kassig, are devastated by the loss of our son, but the pain will be slightly lessened if his death helps bring Austin and others home. Jim, Steven, Peter and Kayla sacrificed all in their efforts to better the lives of others. As President Obama himself noted, they stood for the greatest of American ideals. One of the lessons we have learned is that the pain of the family and friends of the hostage increases tremendously as time passes without resolution. It requires mountain-moving faith to maintain hope as the crisis continues. With unwavering hope, Austin’s parents do not give up. The United States government must not give up.

The Syrian conflict is horrific and tragic, its resolution complex and uncertain. Every diplomatic effort to address the conflict is fraught with uncertainty. Nevertheless, this uncertainty is not a reason to hesitate in leveraging all appropriate means to secure Austin’s safe release and return.

We are not asking the White House to put anyone in harm’s way, nor compromise national security. We are asking the president, fully within the responsibilities and obligations of his office, to put aside any personal or election year concern, to engage boldly and to use all appropriate means to bring Austin Tice safely home as soon as possible.

EDITORS’ NOTE
Austin Tice, now 34, was working as a freelance journalist for McClatchy and The Washington Post when he was taken captive in Syria in August 2012.

Four American hostage families have joined with Austin’s parents, Marc and Debra Tice of Houston, on the anniversary of President Barack Obama’s hostage policy directive to make an appeal to the president. Obama’s directive clarified that the government “may itself communicate with hostage-takers, their intermediaries, interested governments and local communities to attempt to secure the safe recovery of the hostage.”

Read more here: http://www.mcclatchydc.com/opinion/article85218092.html#storylink=cpy
Read more here: http://www.mcclatchydc.com/opinion/article85218092.html#storylink=cpy
Read more here: http://www.mcclatchydc.com/opinion/article85218092.html#storylink=cpy

April 19, 2016


Georgetown Students Rally at White House for Austin Tice



April 18, 2016

Demonstrators urge freedom for missing journalist Austin Tice


November 25, 2015

Thank you to Conor McEvily, for this article which articulates so much about Austin's character, and why we miss him even more keenly when our family gathers for special occasions.





NE Loop 610 @ McCarty Rd, Houston
October, 2015





The Road to Damascus
In 2012 Houston native Austin Tice heeded a calling to become a journalist in war-ravaged Syria. His photographs, stories, and tweets shed new light on the conflict—until one day they stopped.

October 2015 By Sonia Smith

Before he ever considered traveling to Syria, before he saw his byline in the Washington Post, and before he made worldwide news, Austin Tice had a revelation in the desert. At 29, he had insatiable curiosity and a surfeit of charisma, and though he generally wasn’t one to entertain visions, he’d been thinking a lot about his future. It was 2011, and he was three months into his deployment at Camp Leatherneck, in southern Afghanistan, with his fellow Marines. Despite being in a war zone, he was restless. The Arab Spring, the wave of democratic uprisings sweeping through Tunisia, Egypt, and Libya, had been making headlines; the Islamic world was changing fast, and he felt desperately removed from the action. “So often I feel like I was born in the wrong age, or at least on the wrong continent,” he wrote on Facebook that July. But then, as he spent his downtime between missions gazing at photos of protesters in the streets of the Libyan capital and reading tweets about rebels clashing with forces loyal to Colonel Muammar Gaddafi, an idea came to him.

Excitedly, he hurried to his commander’s office and burst in. He knew what he was going to do, he announced: become a war photographer. The commander, Lieutenant Colonel Brian Bruggeman, looked at him cockeyed. Bruggeman had talked often with Austin during their deployment, and though Bruggeman had come to enjoy his big ideas, this was unusual even for him. “Why would you want to do that?” Bruggeman said. Austin’s eyes widened. “Why wouldn’t you? Who wouldn’t want to do that?”

Had Bruggeman known Austin before their deployment, he might have seen the moment coming. Growing up in Westbury, in southwest Houston, as the oldest of seven, Austin had always had a passionate streak. His mother, Debra, homeschooled her children in a house where NPR, newspapers, and the Bible stood in for television—which the family sold at a garage sale in 1988—and weekends were filled with canoeing and camping. One morning, when he was a first grader, Austin came downstairs to find that his assignments for the day weren’t ready. He turned to his mother and said, “ ‘You don’t care about my future. You don’t care about my education. I have no promise here,’ ” Debra recalled. “Everything was always so intense and urgent and relevant with him. He was like that from birth.”

His intensity led to academic success. A National Merit finalist and an Eagle Scout, Austin enrolled in the University of Houston’s Honors College just before his sixteenth birthday. Even then he’d felt the pull of the larger world. During his admissions interview, when asked what he wanted to do with his life, he replied, “Well, I really want to be a foreign correspondent for NPR.” (Jodie Koszegi, the admissions counselor, was impressed. “He knew his own mind,” she told me.) Soon he’d landed a gig writing for the campus paper, the Daily Cougar, and two years later, in the fall of 1999, he transferred to Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service. By the time he graduated, in 2002, he had grown into his lanky frame and earned a reputation for his direct, if not always gracious, manner. One college friend explained, “He’s the kind of person who really has a vision of his place in the world and who considers the question, ‘What can I do that will be really important?’ ”
Austin as an Eagle Scout.

PHOTOGRAPH COURTESY OF THE TICE FAMILY

Like so many young idealists, Austin ended up in law school, but, as would frequently be the case in his life, he’d soon grown restless. After one semester of legal studies at Georgetown, he signed up for the Marine Corps, and in 2005 he was commissioned as a second lieutenant. “I felt there was this sort of disconnect between the world I was living in, where I went to class every day and parties, and then what I would read in the paper,” he would later say in an interview, archived at the Library of Congress. After two deployments, he restarted his first year of law school in 2008, but he found that the discipline and sense of mission he’d acquired in the military made him impatient with his younger, flip-flop-wearing classmates. In early 2011 he volunteered for another deployment as a reservist.

This was how he’d ended up in Afghanistan. No sooner had he arrived, however, than he began wrestling with the U.S. military’s role and tactics in the Middle East. “Heading out soon on a horribly conceived mission,” he wrote once on Twitter. “Hopefully will be forgotten like most dumb missions are; otherwise, see you on CNN.” His commander took his frustrations in stride. “He would drive conversations with questions that were not typical of conversations I was having with anyone, regardless of rank,” Bruggeman said. “He was very curious as to the purpose of our involvement. Austin has a refined sense of justice.” When, two weeks after announcing his new calling, Austin lugged a heavy, expensive Nikon camera that he’d just purchased into Bruggeman’s office, the commander was impressed. “It is not uncommon for someone to have a mid-deployment epiphany,” he said. “A lot of times people think, ‘Hey, I’m going to get out and go to school.’ This was a bit more of a radical epiphany. Not many people follow through on their radical mid-deployment epiphanies, but he did.”

The same day he bought his camera—August 11, his thirtieth birthday—Austin also purchased a plane ticket to Cairo for the following March. His deployment would end in December, and though he planned to return to law school for the spring semester, his main focus was to prepare for life as a foreign journalist. As a trial run, he intended to spend his spring break documenting the aftermath of the Egyptian revolution. Scanning daily headlines on his computer, he weighed where he might commit himself after that.

He briefly considered Libya, but Gaddafi fell in October, and as the news cycle moved on, Austin’s attention shifted to Syria. The conflict there, which had begun in March 2011 as a peaceful protest movement against the regime of President Bashar al-Assad, had turned increasingly violent as the government cracked down on protesters. Now the Free Syrian Army—a ragtag association of mostly Sunni defectors from the military—was fighting to depose the better-equipped Assad regime, which is composed largely of Ala­wites, a Shiite minority. As the violence worsened, the government banned foreign news organizations and often refused to issue visas to journalists, forcing them to either embed with the regime or illegally cross the Turkish or Lebanese borders.

Those who did sneak into the country exposed themselves to tremendous risk. Syria was quickly becoming the most dangerous place in the world—a “black hole,” as some would later call it—for journalists. (Since the start of the Syrian uprising, some 95 journalists have been killed there, and at least 12 are currently imprisoned, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists.) In February 2012 Marie Colvin, a veteran reporter for London’s Sunday Times, was killed by rocket fire in the city of Homs after slipping across the border. Following Colvin’s death, news agencies began pulling back their personnel.

With few journalists on the ground, it was growing increasingly difficult to know what exactly was happening in Syria. Reading the news, Austin was irritated whenever he saw that journalists “could not confirm” details because a news organization didn’t have a reporter in country. The shroud of silence over the conflict—which Colvin herself had described as the worst she’d ever seen—only helped crystallize Austin’s sense of mission.

After returning to Washington, D.C., in January 2012, Austin used his savings to buy camera lenses and other gear and began studying maps of Syria and teaching himself rudimentary Arabic; on Fridays, he audited an introductory photography class at Georgetown. “Time to work hard, be dull, and prepare for the next great adventure. In a movie, this part would be a montage,” he tweeted. At a panel discussion on Syria at George Mason University in February, Austin met Sasha Ghosh-Siminoff, then the head of the Syrian Emergency Task Force, a nonprofit supporting the Syrian revolution. “He made it very clear that he was going whether I helped him or not, which was the attitude of many freelancers at the time,” Ghosh-Siminoff said. “I felt like I had some responsibility to help him meet the right people so it wouldn’t be a complete disaster.” Ghosh-Siminoff was concerned that Austin didn’t speak Arabic and feared for his safety but ultimately agreed to connect Austin with some activists he knew in the region. “From the beginning, he said he wanted to get to Damascus. No journalist had done what he was planning to do, this trek from top to bottom.”

In March, Austin traveled to Egypt with his sister Meagan and two friends, marveling at the pyramids, enjoying the beaches of Sharm el-Sheikh, and photographing a protest in Tahrir Square. This taste of photojournalism confirmed what he’d known all along: he was meant to spend the upcoming summer in Syria. Late one night in Cairo, he called his parents to inform them of his plan. “I’m not going to have any discussion about this,” he told his mother. Debra knew that her son wouldn’t be persuaded otherwise. “There was no talking him out of it. So we just let the butterflies fly and asked, ‘How do we support you?’ ”

On May 8 Austin packed for southern Turkey. He would fly to the city of Gaziantep, take a bus to the city of Antakya, and from there figure out how to enter nearby Syria. He squeezed some $10,000 worth of gear—including his camera, lenses, a portable satellite Internet terminal, a small solar panel, and a Kindle—into several green camera bags and a backpack. To keep himself entertained over multiple flights and layovers, he also brought along Dispatches, Michael Herr’s book about his time as a war correspondent in Vietnam. Before boarding his first flight, Austin pulled out his phone. “This is either gonna be wildly successful or a complete disaster,” he tweeted. “Here goes nothing.”
Austin reporting in Al Tal.

PHOTOGRAPH COURTESY OF CBS

The Syria that Austin entered is not the Syria of today. The reports emanating out of the country have been bleak: seared into our minds are the images of carnage from the Assad regime’s barrel bombs and chemical weapons (more than 220,000 Syrians have died in the conflict so far), of 3.9 million refugees fleeing the country, and of the horrors perpetrated by the self-proclaimed Islamic State, including the gruesome beheadings of foreign journalists like James Foley and aid workers like Peter Kassig. But when Austin first landed on its border, a year and two months after the revolt started, Syria had not yet descended into such chaos. It was already one of the most dangerous countries in the world, but the general assumption was that its government, like Egypt’s and Libya’s and Tunisia’s before it, would soon topple in the face of a united popular uprising. Opposition groups had not yet splintered, U.S. involvement still appeared to be a possibility, and the extremist groups who would later give rise to ISIS were insignificant.

But the violence was escalating. In the months before Austin arrived, Assad had increasingly been clamping down with force on those who opposed him. A UN cease-fire in April 2012 was widely disregarded. As Western powers stood by, unwilling to take a side, the pace of the conflict began to quicken. For the Turkish city of Antakya, this suddenly meant a new identity. With a population of 250,000, Antakya is the capital of Hatay Province, a sliver of land sandwiched between Syria, which controlled the area until the late thirties, and the Mediterranean Sea. It had once been the third-largest city in the Roman Empire and, as the biblical city of Antioch, was an early center of Christianity but had since faded to a provincial backwater. Now Antakya’s geography was turning it into a Casablanca of the Syrian war, a safe haven for refugees, injured fighters, spies, arms dealers, and diplomats, who rented apartments and hotel rooms in the city and mingled at the many outdoor cafes and kebab stands.

Antakya lies in a valley surrounded by mountains and bisected by the Orontes River, tamed into a concrete channel. On a cloudy afternoon, Austin rode the bus in from Gaziantep, passing green rolling hills covered with olive groves and finding the scenery “reminiscent of Southern California.” In the city, he met with a contact provided by Ghosh-Siminoff: Mohammed Issa, a jovial, slightly chubby lawyer and activist from the Damascus suburbs who had fled Syria in July 2011 after being arrested and imprisoned for 57 days. They had tea at a cheap restaurant in Antakya’s old city, and when Austin mentioned he was on a tight budget, Issa invited the American to stay with him and his friends in a second-floor apartment in a mustard-yellow building on Dumlupinar Street. A Syrian refugee named Jameel Saib had found the apartment in early 2012, and it had become something of a way station for displaced Syrian activists, revolutionaries, and foreign fighters of various persuasions on their way to take up arms across the border.

The men slept on soft pallets covered in mismatched floral fabric, which they stacked on top of the cabinets when not in use. Austin began attending the rebels’ organizational meetings, making out what he could in his self-described “crummy Arabic”; having political conversations with Syrian refugees over coffee; and introducing his new Muslim friends to the musical stylings of Taylor Swift. He bonded with Issa over their legal backgrounds. “He was so social. We got to be such good friends that we forgot he was a journalist,” said Issa, who now works as a producer for Al Jazeera in Gaziantep.

In the two weeks he spent at the apartment, in fact, Austin made quick inroads. “I could make ten documentaries about the people who have come and gone from this house,” Saib said while sipping hot tea one day this March, sitting cross-legged on a daybed in the apartment’s light-filled front room. He estimates that hundreds of people have passed through his home, from Western journalists to jihadist fighters. But Austin stood out from the others because he seemed sincerely interested in getting to know everyone. “One time we stayed up all night just talking,” Saib said. The apartment had been so crowded with guests that there was no room to sleep. “So we went to the park and stayed there until seven a.m.” The two sat under the palm trees and cedars and discussed whether happiness was found in material or spiritual things.

In addition to being a safe place for refugees and fighters, Antakya had become a staging point for journalists planning to cross into Syria—in particular freelancers who had cut their teeth in Tahrir Square and Tripoli and were eager for a Syria dateline. Like Austin, many of these freelancers were young, inexperienced, and willing to take enormous personal risks, operating without insurance, translators, or expense accounts. Theo Padnos, James Foley, and Steven Sotloff, who would all later be kidnapped in Syria, spent time in Antakya. But none, perhaps, were looking to go as far into Syria, or stay inside as long, as Austin.

Soon he got the break he’d been wanting: another journalist connected him with Mahmoud Sheikh el-Zour, a sprightly 52-year-old Syrian who agreed to take him into Syria and help set up interviews and translate, a role that foreign correspondents commonly refer to as a fixer. El-Zour had been imprisoned for almost two years in the eighties during the regime of Hafez al-Assad, Bashar’s father, and later received asylum in the U.S., but he had left his life in Atlanta and his job selling heavy equipment and returned to the region to join the Free Syrian Army. When el-Zour agreed to become his fixer, Austin could barely contain his excitement. “I am embedded with #FSA,” he tweeted. “Newsworthy stuff going on daily. If someone wanted to hire me that would be great. Student loans don’t pay themselves.”

A few days later, on May 23, Austin found himself crouching in red dirt among the dry, nodding plumeless thistles as the afternoon sun dipped in the sky. Next to him, el-Zour was whispering into his walkie-talkie to rebels on the other side of the barbed-wire-and-cement fence that marked the Syrian border. When the time was right, they shimmied under the fence, and a group of rebels picked them up. They took back roads to skirt Syrian army checkpoints, until they reached their destination, Khan Shaykhun, a town some 75 miles away, in the northwest corner of the country. Austin had made it. Now he would slowly start working his way toward Damascus, about 160 miles south, recording what he saw.

For the first two weeks, he stayed in the home of Ziad Abo al-Majd, an activist in a nearby village, sleeping in an underground room in case of shelling. He would share a breakfast of cheese, olives, and bread with his host before heading out for the day, accompanying fighters to neighboring towns to document everything from Friday prayers to field hospital operations to funerals. Austin’s nights were usually reserved for uploading photos and writing about what he’d seen that day. “He was the first foreigner I ever met,” al-Majd, who is now the head of the management council of the revolution in Idlib Province, told me over Skype. “He was like one of us. . . . He was cool, kind, and so serious about his work.”

That June, July, and August would be the deadliest months the war had seen. For Austin, this made for perfect timing, but friends back in Antakya grew concerned. They had cautioned him not to speak about his time with the Marines while in Syria—lest he get crosswise with anyone about American foreign policy—but his general openness still worried them. “He was too brave, and I told him that many times,” Issa said. “He is clever, but he trusts his cleverness too much. Because of this, he met a lot of people and trusted them quickly and went with them many places in Syria. As a Syrian, I can’t trust any group.” Saib agreed. “He was adventurous and reckless,” he said. “And overconfident. It’s a problem in war zones to be too confident.”

If Austin felt any fear himself, it was suppressed by an immediate vindication of purpose. Within a week of crossing into Syria, he’d sold his first pictures, to McClatchy, which owns 29 papers in the U.S., including the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. Though his initial idea was to work only as a photojournalist, once he was on the ground, he found that he wanted to also write about what he was seeing. He reached out to Mark Seibel, McClatchy’s Washington, D.C.–based chief of correspondents, who was impressed by his writing. On June 1, McClatchy published his first story: 736 words about a meeting he’d observed between UN monitors and rebels in Latamneh, six miles south of Khan Shaykhun.

And with that, Austin, whose only real reporting experience had been covering campus issues for the Daily Cougar, was now a foreign correspondent.

When it comes to epiphanies, there is perhaps no greater touchstone than the story of the Apostle Paul, whose own awakening—in present-day Syria, and on the way to Damascus, no less—imbued him with singular purpose and a desire to change the world. Perhaps it is no accident, then, that Austin, after awakening to his calling as a war photographer, would follow the same path. “I really think that the next few years of my life are going to [be] a turning point, like I’m standing on the cusp of really coming into myself,” he’d written on Facebook in the months before reaching Syria. Reporting what he witnessed on his way to Damascus, he felt sure, would open the world’s eyes to the atrocities taking place before him.

He was not, however, as prepared for how the journey would open his own eyes to danger and suffering. In Kafr Zita, a town of 17,000 four miles south of Khan Shaykhun, Austin shadowed the rebels during a four-day battle with the regime. They were a disorganized and motley bunch, dressed in tracksuits and jeans and wielding machine guns, Molotov cocktails, and RPGs against the regime’s Russian tanks and helicopters. At one point during the battle, a helicopter fired on a pickup truck that Austin was riding in, and he got separated from el-Zour for four hours. A few days later, the Syrian army set fire to houses in town, leaving behind smoldering piles of rubble. When Austin returned to survey the destruction, he ducked into one of the scorched homes to take pictures and found himself standing in charred human remains. Later that day he photographed some chilling graffiti, spray-painted in Arabic on a stone wall near an abandoned Syrian army checkpoint: “Don’t worry, Bashar, you have a military that will drink blood.”

The experience left him rattled. “Been in Syria for 11 days and seen combat [twice]. It’s terrifying. I can’t comprehend the bravery of the [people] who have endured it for 14 months,” he wrote on Twitter. He was gutted by the suffering he saw along the way. “Saw a girl who’d been hit in the head by a tank round. 3 other kids died in the attack. She has brain damage and can’t walk. I broke down,” he tweeted. The plight of kids in the war zone weighed heavily on him. “I have more pictures of beautiful Syrian kids than I could ever possibly use. It breaks my heart to see what is happening to them. No kid should even have to know that things like this happen in the world, much less be forced to live and sometimes die this way,” he wrote in a caption on Flickr.

Austin’s searing coverage helped fill the void of news about the war, and as he started to make a name for himself, he began pitching stories to editors at some of the largest U.S. media outlets. The first of his three Washington Post stories—a profile of “the Idlib boys,” as Austin called them, the FSA battalion operating in the northern province by the same name—ran on June 20, less than a month after he entered Syria. But the piece he seemed proudest of was a story for McClatchy that pondered whether certain elements of Assad’s forces might be intentionally underperforming. His time as a Marine had given him a keen understanding of military tactics. “He could tell you by the angles at which these helicopters were trying to chase rebel convoys that they were purposefully trying to miss,” one journalist told me. “That was a great insight because it illustrates that there are elements in the Assad military—Sunni pilots—that are not trying to prosecute this war and are sympathizing with the opposition.” As he inched closer to Damascus, Austin—with an unkempt beard matching his brown hair and eyes—appeared on CNN and CBS and gave radio interviews to the BBC and NPR.

By this time, he was traveling with another journalist. In Kafr Zita, less than two weeks into his time in Syria, Austin had met David Enders, a Beirut-based correspondent for McClatchy who had entered the country a few days prior from southern Turkey. They decided to stick together, traveling over the next couple of weeks from the top of Hama Province, in northwest Syria, down to northern Homs Province, in the center of the country, collaborating on several stories and spending considerable downtime waiting in safe houses.

Enders, who has a decade of experience covering wars in the Middle East, found Austin to be “very driven and very principled and very brave” but tried to impress upon him some safety tips. “He wasn’t trained for some of the delicacies of the situation. He was filing [stories] from the places he was, he was tweeting from the places he was. I told him explicitly that it was absurd to think that the government wasn’t monitoring those things and explained to him that I never datelined anything or published anything until I had been gone from a place for two days,” he recalled. “These are things that you do in a situation where the government has shown a willingness to target journalists.” Filing via satellite phone is risky too, as the regime can track and triangulate the signal. (This is widely acknowledged to be how the government targeted Marie Colvin.)

Most journalists who were going into Syria at the time would cross the border from Lebanon or Turkey, spend a few days inside, and head back to safety. That included Enders. At the end of June, Enders told Austin he was returning to the Lebanese border and implored Austin to come with him. But Austin wanted to continue south, to the city of Homs, which had been embroiled in a grinding, bloody siege for thirteen months. “My understanding of getting into Homs at that time, if you managed it, meant a slog through a two-mile sewer pipe, and if you got caught, you had nowhere to run,” Enders said. “I had advised him strongly not to continue on to Homs and to return to the border with me, but he wasn’t interested. He was intent on going to Damascus.”

This choice to continue south also meant Austin had to part ways with el-Zour, who wanted to stay and fight with the Idlib battalion and eventually return to Turkey, and so he reluctantly passed Austin off to another band of rebels headed south. El-Zour called Saib back in Antakya to express his frustration. “Austin wants to go to Damascus, and I can’t go with him now. I feel afraid for him, but I do not have the ability to make him stay with me,” Saib recounted el-Zour saying. (El-Zour, reached inside Syria, declined to comment for this story.)

Despite his limited grasp of Arabic, Austin quickly and implicitly trusted the rebels he met. “At the time, other journalists did go battalion hopping,” Ghosh-Siminoff explained. “There was sort of a system of trust and faith, by referral from whatever FSA group you were with. It kind of made sense because you felt like everyone was fighting for the right reasons. You weren’t worried about rebels kidnapping or killing you, because the rebels needed the media attention, needed the media on their side.” (The landscape is different now. There are about 1,200 militias operating in Syria today, says Joshua Landis, the director of the Center for Middle East Studies at the University of Oklahoma, citing CIA figures. “Many militias were still trying to be nice to Americans in the early stages of the civil war because they hoped they would get arms and help and money from the Americans. Today, Americans are seen as more useful for hostage money,” he told me.)

Though Austin was reaching places seen by few other Western journalists, he was weary of the many delays and the waiting around that travel in Syria required. After a few days idling in safe houses on the outskirts of Homs, Austin gave up and pushed farther south. “I have wasted a lot of time outside Homs, ultimately can’t get in. Headed toward Damascus instead,” he wrote Ghosh-Siminoff on July 1. “Things are happening there, there’s clearly an army offensive going on.” Four days later, he arrived in Yabroud, a city in the Qalamun Mountains some 45 miles north of Damascus that was largely untouched by shelling. “If didn’t know otherwise you’d never think there was a revolution here. Muslims & Christians intermingled. Peaceful,” he wrote on Twitter. “I feel like I’m on vacation. NO SHELLS!!” He shaved his scraggly beard to acclimate to the more secular environment and declared Yabroud to be an “oasis of calm” in a front-page Post piece. Next he moved on to Al Tal, six miles from downtown Damascus, where he watched rebels and government troops battle for control of two secret police buildings, with the FSA ultimately prevailing. “It was quite a scene when they struck the government flag on the roof and raised the Free Syrian Army flag. There was quite a bit of celebration in the streets,” he told Scott Pelley on the CBS Evening News.

In the middle of the civil war, he didn’t let go of home. While holed up in a basement in Al Tal during one long bombardment, he penned a letter to a neighborhood association in Houston to support a planned housing development for single mothers. (“Dear Ma’ams and Sirs, I write to express my disappointment in my hometown’s apparent opposition to the extension of charitable aid to the most vulnerable in our community,” the letter begins.) When talking with his parents, Austin tended to shield Debra from the day-to-day realities of the dangers he faced, though he was a bit more candid with his father, Marc. One day when Austin was in Al Tal, Debra decided to see if his satellite phone was working.

“Oh, hey, Mom!” he said when he picked up. Other voices chattered in the background.

“What are you doing?” Debra asked.

“The connection might not be too good because we’re sheltering in a stairwell,” he said, before adding, “Actually, I gotta go. We’re running now. Love you, Mom. Talk to you later.”

After that, Debra decided never to call his satellite phone again. “Okay, well, his phone works,” she thought to herself, “but that was too much information.”

While he didn’t reveal fear to his parents, he was more forthcoming with his friends. One evening, Austin confessed to Ghosh-Siminoff over Google Chat, “I’m having a good time, but I would be lying if I said it wasn’t also terrifying.”

“They give you a flak jacket?” Ghosh-Siminoff asked. Austin replied, “I got offered one but turned it down. Meh.”

Austin’s exploits and his desire to document the war even at great personal risk inspired a blend of awe and worry among his friends back home. Their concerns prompted him to write a note on Facebook, later published on the Post website, that has since become something of a manifesto.

“People keep telling me to be safe (as if that’s an option), keep asking me why I’m doing this crazy thing, keep asking what’s wrong with me for coming here. So listen,” he wrote. “Our granddads stormed Normandy and Iwo Jima and defeated global fascism. Neil Armstrong flew to the Moon in a glorified trash can, doing math on a clipboard as he went. Before there were roads, the Pioneers put one foot in front of the other until they walked across the entire continent. Then a bunch of them went down to fight and die in Texas ’cause they thought it was the right thing to do. Sometime between when our granddads licked the Nazis and when we started putting warnings on our coffee cups about the temperature of our beverage, America lost that pioneering spirit. We became a fat, weak, complacent, coddled, unambitious and cowardly nation. . . . So that’s why I came here to Syria, and it’s why I like being here now, right now, right in the middle of a brutal and still uncertain civil war. Every person in this country fighting for their freedom wakes up every day and goes to sleep every night with the knowledge that death could visit them at any moment. They accept that reality as the price of freedom. . . . They’re alive in a way that almost no Americans today even know how to be. They live with greater passion and dream with greater ambition because they are not afraid of death. Neither were the Pioneers. Neither were our granddads. Neither was Neil Armstrong. And neither am I.”

Austin’s summer had been full of danger, but his ultimate goal—trying to sneak into Damascus—would be his most daring move yet. On July 30, after days of trying, Austin finally persuaded a group of FSA rebels to smuggle him into the capital.

A truck ferried him through the Damascus suburbs, then he switched to a car, which soon stopped ahead of a government checkpoint. Austin slid out of the backseat and onto the pavement. As the car drove off, a guide led him into a stream of pedestrians walking toward the checkpoint. Austin was draped in an abaya, a long black gown, and his face was covered by a niqab, a full-face veil. Through a slit he could see soldiers with Kalashnikovs milling about, periodically searching cars and eyeing ID cards. He felt conspicuous in the disguise, which left his feet exposed and stretched awkwardly across his muscular shoulders—sculpted by years of swimming in childhood and rowing crew in college—giving the impression of a hulking woman. Still, odd as it was, wearing the outfit seemed better than approaching a checkpoint as himself, a journalist in the country illegally. If discovered by Assad’s soldiers, he could be detained in one of the regime’s many prisons, or worse.

Austin followed his guide at a deliberate pace, trying not to rouse suspicion. He kept his eyes trained on the ground. All he could do was keep moving and pray he wouldn’t be noticed. It was in the upper 90’s and humid, and the black fabric—which retained the perfumed scent of the last person to wear it—was oppressive in the afternoon heat. They were nearly past the checkpoint when, from twenty feet behind them, one of the soldiers bellowed, “Stop!” They didn’t look back. His guide sped up, so Austin did too. Then they heard the crack of gunfire. At this, they both bolted down the street. Bullets pinged the wall beside them.

They ducked into an alleyway and kept running, past women and children gawking from doorways, until they reached a busy intersection and were reunited with their car, which had made it through the checkpoint. The car soon stopped again, this time to pick up the architect of this plan, a rebel who went by the nom de guerre Abu Mohammad. He looked at Austin’s get-up. “Take that thing off,” he said. “It does more harm than good.” As Austin would recount the next day in a piece for McClatchy about sneaking into the city, he received a cursory tour of central Damascus in the car, passing the headquarters of the Mukhabarat, the feared secret police; circling roundabouts; and viewing the charred husk of a bombed-out building. Around sundown, the car pulled up at their destination, an FSA safe house, where Austin shared an Iftar meal with fighters who were breaking their fast on the eleventh day of Ramadan. As they ate, one of the men turned to Austin. “Welcome to Damascus,” he said.

Austin would spend most of the next two weeks in Daraya, a Sunni suburb on the southwestern outskirts of the capital, famous for the handmade wooden furniture that craftsmen churn out in their small workshops. He settled in with a group of rebels, staying in a two-story marble villa that served as the battalion’s media center. His days were divided between covering demonstrations, observing the battalion’s weapons and tactics training, and helping out with a street cleanup after the regime cut public services to the area. There were also moments of levity, playing Counter-Strike with his hosts and ringing in his thirty-first birthday with a pool party complete with whiskey and a Taylor Swift sound track.

Though embedded with the rebels, Austin did what he could to present a balanced view of the war. On August 3, McClatchy had run his piece on alleged executions and human rights abuses perpetrated by the rebels.

Six days later he took a two-day trip to Jdei­det Artouz, a nearby suburb, to film a TV spot on a government massacre that left fifty dead. His guide, a young activist and Palestinian refugee who goes by the pseudonym Adam Boudy, helped translate as Austin interviewed family members of victims of the raid and was struck by his charisma. “Everyone wanted to talk to him. He was very magnetic, and he was able to get what he needed as a journalist. His charisma gave him the keys to the people,” Boudy said.

Back in Daraya, Austin’s Internet access was spotty over the next few days. He feared the government was jamming it, and he was growing anxious about his safety. “He was concerned he had been inside too long and that his presence was becoming a known quantity by the regime,” Ghosh-Siminoff said.

Austin often referred to his time in Syria as his “crazy summer vacation,” but by mid-August he was ready for a break. He prepared to leave Damascus and head to the Lebanese border by car, for a few weeks of relaxation in Beirut, where he planned to meet a friend. But he never arrived. Austin’s stream of tweets, Google Chats, emails, and texts suddenly stopped, and messages to him went unreturned. His editors determined that the last time his satellite phone transmitted was August 13. After two months and 21 days in Syria, Austin Tice had vanished.

On August 17, Debra Tice was wrapping up a six-day canoe trip on the Boundary Waters, in the upper reaches of Minnesota. She had been happy to be back in the place where, seventeen years before, she had helped chaperone a Boy Scout canoe trip for Austin’s fourteenth birthday. Soon after pulling her boat out of the water, she called to check in with her husband in Houston.

“I don’t have any good news, and I have more bad news than you’re expecting,” Marc Tice told her, “so decide how you want to hear it.”

Her husband typically wasn’t cryptic, so this unsettled her. She walked out to the dock, where she could be alone. It was there, surrounded by pine trees and the sound of gently lapping water, that she heard the news that her firstborn son was missing.

All week Marc had been trying to rationalize the radio silence from Austin. They had last emailed at 6:40 a.m. Houston time on August 13, the middle of the afternoon in Damascus. Austin had planned to leave for Beirut the next morning, so a certain degree of disconnectedness was to be expected. But after four days without any form of communication, Marc broke down and contacted Mark Seibel at McClatchy.

Seibel said he hadn’t heard from Austin either. He was concerned and so were editors at the Post.

Later that afternoon, a State Department official called Marc in Houston. “They uttered that classic line, ‘Are you sitting down?’ But, of course, by then, I knew what they were calling about,” he recounted.
Marc and Debra Tice, at their home, in Houston.

PHOTOGRAPH BY BILL SALLANS

Soon the Tices found themselves in Washington for meetings at the FBI and the State Department. McClatchy went public with the news on August 23, reporting that Austin “has been incommunicado for more than a week.” Journalists in Antakya and Beirut and inside Syria mobilized. The Liwan Hotel, built in the twenties as a mansion for the first president of Syria and recently reborn as a boutique hotel, became the unofficial headquarters in Antakya. Reporters posted up in the hotel’s courtyard restaurant or darkened bar and worked their contacts, trying to piece together the murky circumstances surrounding Austin’s disappearance. (Among the journalists at the Liwan Hotel was James Foley, who had spent a few days with Austin outside Homs and who would be kidnapped one hundred days after Austin, in Idlib Province.)

Their task, already a thankless one, was further complicated when forces loyal to President Assad, using tanks and engaging in house-to-house searches, began assaulting the Daraya suburb, where Austin had been staying, a week after his disappearance. More than four hundred people were killed, making it the bloodiest massacre of the Syrian conflict up to that point. Journalists in the region eventually heard several stories about Austin, most involving a cab driver that he’d called. Perhaps the cab driver had sold him out, or maybe he had been seized by government forces at a checkpoint, or maybe a group of rebels had traded him to the regime. “I don’t think we’ll ever know exactly what happened after he got into that taxi, or if he even did,” Enders wrote to me.

All early reports seemed to indicate that Austin had been detained by the regime. The first public indication of this came on August 27, when Eva Filipi, the Czech Republic’s ambassador to Damascus, said in an interview with a Czech television reporter during a trip back to Prague, “From one of our sources we came by the news that he is alive, and he was detained by government forces in the suburbs of Damascus.” On August 31, a State Department spokesperson said that the U.S. government was working to confirm reports that Austin was being held but that the Syrian government had yet to respond to official inquiries regarding his whereabouts. By October, U.S. officials’ wording had become less ambiguous. “There’s a lot of reason for the Syrian government to duck responsibility, but we continue to believe that, to the best of our knowledge, we think he is in Syrian government custody,” spokesperson Victoria Nuland told reporters. But the Assad regime has never admitted involvement in Austin’s disappearance.

Meanwhile, the Tices got a sense of Austin’s impact on Syrians on September 7, when demonstrators at the weekly Friday protests in Yabroud held up posters bearing Austin’s picture and calling for his release. “Freedom for Austin Tice, who lighted Syria with his lens,” one read in Arabic. “Seeing that protest was actually one of the most emotional things for me,” Marc said. “He talked to a lot of people in Yabroud and obviously made a big impression on them.”

No demands or proof of life were forthcoming. In late September, a shaky, 46-second video was posted to YouTube and later to a pro-Assad Facebook page. Marc was alerted to it by an editor at McClatchy in the middle of the night on October 2, when his phone chimed at 2:15 a.m., jolting him awake. He walked downstairs to watch the clip; as he saw what unfolded, the color drained from his face. The blurry video opens with a shot of a ramshackle convoy of vehicles driving on a dirt road alongside hills covered with stubby, thorny brush. Then a group of men wearing freshly pressed shalwar kameezes, tactical vests, and black headbands, with assault rifles and RPG launchers slung across their shoulders, roughly hustle a blindfolded Austin out of a white pickup truck and up a rocky hillside while shouting “Allahu akbar.” Austin, wearing the same green shirt he had worn on CBS News not long before he disappeared and sporting a newly sprouted beard, looks distraught and bewildered. He recites the Bismillah—“In the name of Allah”—in broken Arabic before sighing and adding, in breathless English, “Oh Jesus, oh Jesus.”

Shaken, Marc walked over to the sofa in the living room, dreading the moment he had to show the video to his wife. But he didn’t have to wait long. Debra woke up and, upon discovering he wasn’t in bed with her, knew something was wrong and went looking for him. They hunched over the computer and watched the chilling clip together to verify that it was indeed their son. But the Tices found a glimmer of hope in the title of the video: “Austin Tice still alive.” It’s the only time the Tices have gotten a glimpse of their son since his capture.

“Whoever is holding him, the first message they sent us was that he was alive. I feel certain they must have known that we would be concerned that he had been injured in the attack on Daraya, so there’s this desire for us to be assured that he’s alive, that he’s coming home,” Debra told me this March. “It’s almost like an expression of compassion: ‘I can’t really end your suffering, but I can give you an Advil.’ ”

Immediately, pundits, journalists, and intelligence analysts began speculating about the origin of the clip, finding that it lacked the hallmarks of typical jihadi videos—slick editing, a prominent logo, a credits page. This led Joseph Holliday, of the Institute for the Study of War, to tell the Post, “It’s like a caricature of a jihadi group.” The clothes weren’t right either: no one in Syria at that point was wearing shalwar kameezes, the tunic-and-pants outfit favored by Afghan men. Joshua Landis, the Middle East expert at the University of Oklahoma, told me, “At the time I looked at it, everyone was asking if it was authentic; at the time it seemed rather staged.” An activist who spent time with Austin near Damascus put it this way: “I think all the Syrian activists believe that the video was a show. And the only real thing in that show was Austin, unfortunately.”

In November 2012, two months after the video surfaced and three months after Austin went missing, the Tices made the first of four trips to Beirut. They rented an apartment and met with American, Russian, and British diplomats. At a press conference at the Beirut Press Club on November 12, they told a packed room of reporters that they were in the region in hopes that anyone with knowledge of their son’s whereabouts would get in contact with them. They acknowledged that their family was now part of a larger story. “We know that we’re not the only family that’s suffering. Austin’s silence gave us some understanding about the anxieties and uncertainty that so many families in this part of the world face,” Marc told reporters. They stayed in Beirut twice as long as they had planned, returning home in late November for the first of three Thanksgiving meals without their son. “When we left for that trip,” Debra told me, “we were really thinking that we were coming home with Austin.”

Their son’s disappearance has since taken over the Tices’ lives, and they have joined a small but active community of American parents whose children have been kidnapped in Syria. They became especially close to Diane and John Foley, who first reached out to them in early 2013. Their sons had become friends inside Syria and had been kidnapped within four months of each other, and now their families faced the same unhappy limbo.

On August 19, 2014, as the Tices prepared for a candlelight prayer vigil marking Austin’s two years of captivity, they received crushing news: a video had appeared online showing James Foley’s beheading by ISIS. Videos showing the deaths of four more prisoners would follow over the next three months: American freelancer Steven Sotloff on September 2, then British aid workers David Haines and Alan Henning and American aid worker Peter Kassig. The footage spurred the Obama administration to take military action against ISIS and awoke the White House to the necessity of changing U.S. hostage policy. The government had forbidden private citizens to raise and pay ransoms for kidnapped Americans, even while some Europeans, without such restrictions from their governments, were paying extremist groups to secure release of their loved ones.

The Tices, who had been less than enthused about most of their interactions with the government prior to the policy review, twice traveled to Washington to suggest policy changes to government officials. This June, they returned to Washington and, sitting in a room with other families in the Executive Office Building, listened as the president personally laid out the changes to the hostage policy: the government would create a “fusion cell” at the FBI to coordinate interagency efforts; each family would be appointed a “family engagement coordinator”; and, perhaps most important, families would no longer be threatened with prosecution for raising ransoms. The Tices were heartened by the changes, which they said would have helped when Austin first went missing, though they’ve never received a ransom demand or any communication from his captors.

So where is Austin? The Tices say they don’t know for certain, but they do receive word periodically, from credible sources both within the American government and abroad, that he is alive and “reasonably well treated.” They say they know he’s not being held by ISIS or any part of the Syrian opposition. “We believe it is a Syrian entity of one type or another that’s holding him,” Marc said during a press conference at the National Press Club in Washington this February. “The exact circumstances of Austin’s captivity are still, to a large degree, a mystery to us. We don’t know details and specifics. We have heard . . . that we need to be patient, that there is a general confidence that he will come home safely.”

Austin worked so hard to bring awareness to the plight of the Syrian people, and his parents are trying to keep up that mission while making sure his plight also receives ample attention. This year the Tices launched an awareness campaign about Austin, partnering with Reporters Without Borders and New York advertising agency J. Walter Thompson. At least 267 news sites donated ad space to the campaign, with the New York Times and the Washington Post each running full-page ads. As part of the campaign, more than eight hundred black blindfolds were printed with #FreeAustinTice, so people could take photos of themselves wearing them and post the images to social media. The most recent public development in the case came in late March, when the French newspaper Le Figaro published a story asserting that “an emissary representing the U.S. government” had visited Austin at a prison in Damascus. The piece went on to claim that the U.S. and Syria were directly negotiating for Austin’s release. State Department officials denied most of the story but did concede that they have been in “periodic, direct contact” with the Syrian government over certain consular issues, including Austin’s case.

In the meantime, being the parent of a hostage continues to be a full-time job. During a panel discussion at the New America Foundation this April, Debra told the audience that her whole life is devoted to “determining who is holding my son and how to bring him safely home.” This work has taken her to national television studios, to conference rooms in drab government office buildings, and, this past spring, to Paris’s Place de la République, where she spoke onstage before a crowd of more than 10,000 on World Press Freedom Day to mark the thirtieth anniversary of Reporters Without Borders. On her most recent trip to Beirut, which spanned this May and June, Debra sliced her foot open on a jagged pipe while crossing the street. In the ambulance on the way to the American University in Beirut Medical Center, the paramedic told her that he was a UN volunteer and knew all about her son. “You’re the mother of my hero,” he said.

On most days, there is little the Tices can do. Nearly every morning, Debra wakes up at 4 a.m.—noon in the Middle East—and looks over Twitter to see if anything has shifted overnight. They sift through Google Alerts and tweets and various websites for information. “We’re hopeful about any little change in the region that might give the slightest hope that Austin will be released. We’re always looking for any kind of earth move,” Debra said. This process continues throughout the day. The last thing Marc does before bed is check his phone and Twitter feed. “If I hear a ding in the middle of the night, I check it. That’s when things seem to happen,” he said. “I’m always checking.” One day when I was visiting, Debra got a message from Marc to look into news regarding a meeting between Iranian and Jordanian intelligence agencies. These news tidbits usually don’t amount to much, though the recent nuclear deal with Iran—a close Shiite ally of the Assad regime—and the possibility of Syrian peace talks have given the Tices hope for movement on Austin’s case. But it’s still largely out of their control, and that’s perhaps the most frustrating aspect.

Debra, who is used to being an integral part of her children’s lives, now has no action to take. “If there’s ever a problem, I’m all over it,” she said. “So part of the frustration is there’s nothing I can put my hands around, there’s nobody I can shake down.” August 13 marked three years since Austin disappeared, and mostly what they’ve heard from his captors is infuriating silence.

This March Debra and Marc sat in the living room of their ivy-covered red-brick home and showed me old family photos of Austin. Here he is as a toddler with a blue knit cap pulled down over his ears, standing in a pile of leaves in front of his newly built jungle gym. Here he is at sixteen, with the bicycle-powered contraption he built to wheel his lawn mower around the neighborhood to increase the number of lawns he could hit in one day.

Across the room, hanging on the wall, is a shiny black plaque. This is his George Polk Award, one of the most prestigious honors in journalism. It was presented to Austin in absentia in February 2013 for his McClatchy stories. His parents know he will barely be able to contain himself when he finally sees it. Just above the engraving of Austin’s name, the award lists the field that the former law student and Marine—after just a few months of work—had reached the pinnacle of: “war reporting.”


August 19, 2015





The Lonestar Weekly
Home / Press / The Lonestar Weekly

Texas' Austin Tice: Captive Three Years
Aug 19 2015


A little more than three years ago, Houston-native Austin Tice was taken captive in Syria. His many accolades include Eagle Scout, Marine, and journalist, but his more important titles are friend, brother, and son.

Austin's family is not just counting the days and minutes he's been gone, but they’re counting the milestones missed over the past three years, too.

I renew my call for Austin's immediate release by his captors and strongly urge the Obama Administration to utilize all possible means necessary to bring Austin home safely. I’ve recently introduced legislation establishing an Interagency Hostage Recovery Coordinator to create a unified government response to hostage situations like Austin's.

While nothing can undo the pain he and his loved ones have endured, as a nation we must do everything we possibly can to find Austin and bring this Texan home.



Photo Courtesy the Tice Family
August 12, 2015




July 31, 2015




June 24, 2015




May 12, 2015




May 3, 2015
Debra Tice speaks at Celebration of World Press Freedom Day and 30th Anniversary of Reporters without Borders in Paris


May 3, 2015 L'OBS (France) Interview: Debra Tice: "I wanted to see people in the streets demanding the release of my son"

May 1, 2015




April 28, 2015
University of Houston 'Cougar': #FreeAustinTice: Parents of UH alumnus kidnapped in Syria speak at University


April 27, 2015



April 23, 2015

Freelancer Austin Tice, detained in Syria, to receive Aubuchon Press Freedom Award

April 23, 2015 | By John Donnelly | jdonnelly@cq.com

American freelance reporter Austin Tice, detained in Syria since 2012, will receive one of the club's most prestigious honors.

The club will give Tice a John Aubuchon Press Freedom Award at its annual awards dinner July 29. The Aubuchon award recognizes those whose work has demonstrated the courage that lies at the heart of a free press.

Tice joins Jason Rezaian, a Washington Post reporter detained in Iran, as recipients of the Club's domestic freedom of the press award this year. The club announced Rezaian's award on March 12. The Club also recognizes a foreign journalist annually.

Tice, a freelance reporter, left home for Syria in May 2012 to tell the story of the conflict in that country and its impact on the ordinary people there. His work was published by McClatchy Newspapers, the Washington Post, the Associated Press, AFP and others.

In August 2012, Tice disappeared near Damascus. It still remains uncertain who holds him, but he is believed to be alive and not held by the Islamic State militant group, according to credible sources.

"Austin Tice embodies the best of our profession, and whoever is jailing him represents the worst of the many threats to journalism," Club President John Hughes said. "In giving this award, we want to particularly make sure the world remembers Tice and the other freelancers who often work in dangerous places without adequate support and protection."

Hughes announced the award at the start of a half-day program today at the club to discuss baseline standards for protecting freelance journalists who work in war zones. The club's Journalism Institute, the Investigative Reporting Workshop and the Committee to Protect Journalists are holding the event.

Tice's parents thanked the club for the honor.

"This is an important recognition that both Jason and Austin are being held because of their commitment to gather, record and report the news," Tice's parents said. "With them, we believe that freedom of information and expression is a self-evident unalienable right belonging to every person. We earnestly hope and pray Austin and Jason will be here in July to personally accept this prestigious award."
April 18, 2015
Time: How should the United States act during hostage situations? by Jane Greenway Carr of New America

April 6, 2015




April 14, 2015
Georgetown University hosts week of campus


activities for #FreeAustinTice awareness campaign





WUSA 9 Washington DC: Georgetown draws attention to missing alum



March 27, 2015
The Hoya - Georgetown University Student Newspaper Editorial

March 27, 2015
Wall Street Journal: US in discussions with Syria over missing journalist Austin Tice

March 20, 2015


Many thanks to the Newseum in Washington D.C. for including Austin in its compelling exhibit on risks to journalists




February 21, 2015
Washington Post - "Families hope...US review will make a difference"

February 19, 2015
McClatchyDC - #FreeAustinTice Campaign Kicks Off




February 18, 2015
The Houston Chronicle - St. John Barned-Smith

February 18, 2015
Fox News.com - Article by Cristina Corbin

February 17, 2015
KUHF Houston - Social Media Campaign Launches







February 16, 2015
Houston Chronicle - Captive journalist's parents join blindfold photo campaign

February 16, 2015
USA Today






February 16, 2015
CNN International - Robyn Curnow Interview






February 15, 2015
Los Angeles Times





February 13, 2015
Megan Specia - Mashable





February 13, 2015
Gretchen Carlson: The Real Story - Fox Interview





February 13, 2015



February 13, 2015





February 13, 2015
Washington Post





February 12, 2015
Radio France Internationale (RFI) Interview (link)




February 12, 2015




February 12, 2015
Laura Haim - Canal Plus- I tele French TV



February 11, 2015






February 11, 2015
MSNBC - NOW with Alex Wagner





February 11, 2015



February 11, 2015
ABC Channel 13 Houston - Sonia Azad



February 10, 2015
CNN - Brooke Baldwin







February 10, 2015
USA Today





February 9, 2015
CNN - Erin Burnett Out Front





February 7, 2015
Newsweek: Family of Kidnapped American Journalist Austin Tice Launches Campaign for His Return From Syria

February 6, 2015




February 6, 2015


February 5, 2015
Houston Chronicle: Parents of hostage Austin Tice take his plight to Washington

February 5, 2015


February 5, 2015




February 4, 2015
Houston Chronicle: Houston mother of hostage wants a new look at U.S. policy
February 4, 2015







January 19, 2015


Parents of Kidnapped American Journalist Austin Tice Speak Out (link to video)







January 14, 2015


Parents of Kidnapped U.S. Journalist Austin Tice on Their Struggle to Free Son from Syria Captivity (link to video)





December 6, 2014


American journalists deserve our support, respect

Thank you to Kelli Arena, who holds the Dan Rather Chair of Broadcast Journalism at Sam Houston State University, for her article discussing the importance of American journalism, and addressing questions about Austin and others who choose to report from parts of the world in upheaval.
This work is indeed necessary if we are to be an informed people. If we desire to exercise our voice in the policies and actions of our country, we must be informed about the details of the situations on which our government is acting - this information is what journalists like Austin strive to provide.
We would also add that the use of government resources to help Americans in trouble overseas is not a new phenomenon, and is in fact a long-standing, significant function of government. Many elements of the US government, including the State Department (Overseas Citizens Services) and the FBI (Office for Victim Assistance), operate offices with the mission of helping US citizens - journalists, tourists, business people and others - who find themselves in difficulties in other countries.


November 23, 2014

NPR Interview: Families Feel Sidelined As U.S. Reviews Hostage Policy




November 10, 2014

Our sincere thanks to Marty Baron, Executive Editor of The Washington Post for mentioning Austin and making an impassioned statement on the threats to journalists and journalism.


WaPo's Martin Baron Delivers Keynote Address at ICFJ's Awards Dinner




September 25, 2014

By Sonia Azad
Thursday, September 25, 2014
HOUSTON (KTRK) --
Marc and Debra Tice are in the fight of their lives.


"We'd love to hear his voice, to communicate with him," said Marc Tice. "Every time the phone rings, we hope it's Austin calling for a ride."


Their son Austin, a former U.S. Marine, Georgetown law student and freelance journalist was captured two years ago in a suburb of Damascus, Syria.


"We have no reason to believe he's held with ISIS," his father told us in a one-on-one interview. Austin's mother continued, "Early on, we decided that to try to speculate was just another way of wasting energy. Instead of trying to figure it out, we would just like to know."


The Houston couple has sent messages to Syria through intermediaries, and hope Austin is somewhere safe, watching and hearing everything.


"We hear through credible sources that we should not worry, that he is alive and he is safe and he is not ill-treated and we need to be patient," said Debra Tice. Her husband added, "At the same time, they never come with any proof, or evidence, anything concrete, anyone to contact directly, and that's what we're really looking for."


Through airstrike campaigns led by the U.S. government and a series of recent gruesome beheadings of other American journalists, the Tices are frustrated with the pace and process to get their son back. Still, 773 days into their fight, they hold on to hope.


"We always hope that any changes in what's going on (in Syria) will create an opportunity for a channel of communication or for someone - whoever it is that's holding Austin-to decide things are different now, and we'll send this boy home."


Austin's parents are encouraging their friends and neighbors in Houston to communicate with President Barack Obama the importance of seeing Austin get safely back home.
Map My News

September 24, 2014




September 23, 2014



September 23, 2014

Parents of U.S. journalist who went missing in Syria want answers
By Ashley Fantz, Ed Lavandera and Elwyn Lopez, CNN
updated 10:18 PM EDT, Tue September 23, 2014


(Link to Story) Thanks to Ed Lavandera, Elwyn Lopez and their crew

September 23, 2014



September 18, 2014

Thank you to our Congressman, the Honorable Al Green, for bringing Austin's plight to the floor of the US House of Representatives.



September 10, 2014



September 10, 2014


September 10, 2014


September 10, 2014


August 17, 2014


Thank you Bryan Wendell and Scouting magazine for sharing Austin's story with his fellow Scouts:
Eagle Scout journalist has been missing in Syria for two years

August 15, 2014

Our thanks to Jonathan Hunt who shares Austin's story on Fox News:
Fox News.com "On the Hunt" with Jonathan Hunt

August 14, 2014


Houston Public Media's "Houston Matters" shares our thoughts. Thanks to Craig Cohen and all the team at Houston Public Media
Houston Public Media - Houston Matters







August 14, 2014

We are grateful to our hometown newspaper, The Houston Chronicle, for devoting so much of their content today to Austin, and for doing so in such a professional and compassionate way.
Houston Family holds out hope for son missing in Syria -article

Houston Family: We won't give up hope for captive son - opinion piece

August 14, 2014


Thank you to CBS News for this Article
August 14, 2014

Many thanks to our dear friends and Austin's fantastic colleagues at McClatchy News for their unwavering support. McClatchy DC


Our thanks also to The Washington Post, whose management and staff have been steadfast with resources, advice and support from the beginning. Thank you.   The Washington Post


August 11, 2014
Thank you to Fox 26 Houston KRIV Television and Randy Wallace for sharing Austin's story on his 33rd Birthday:

Area couple facing two years with no word from missing journalist son

July 30, 2014

We thank the Senator for speaking on Austin's behalf, and for his steadfast commitment to bring Austin safely home.

December 22, 2013



July 05, 2013

Parents of reporter missing in Syria plead for news

By Sara Hussein (AFP) – Jul 5, 2013

BEIRUT — Debra Tice wakes up each morning hoping her life will have changed and the 11 months since her son Austin disappeared in Syria will turn out to have been a bad dream.

But since she and her husband Marc learnt that their 31-year-old first-born had gone missing while reporting in the war-torn country, not a single morning has given her that relief.

"I just wake up and think, I woke up again and nothing has changed, it wasn't a dream," she told AFP in Beirut, where she and her husband are looking for information about their missing child.

"I put my feet on the floor and I build a wall around my emotions and I just think about what strength I need for today," she added.

Austin Tice was in law school in the United States when he decided to head to Syria last year to try to kickstart a journalism career.

He contributed to the Washington Post and McClatchy newspapers, among others, and was awarded a prestigious Polk award after his disappearance in August 2012.

Since then, his parents and his six brothers and sisters have had almost no information about him.

In September, a video showing him purportedly being held by radical Islamists surfaced, but questions were raised about whether those shown in the video were really militants, and Marc Tice says the recording "raised more questions than it answered".

Still, he says, the video proved their son was still alive -- a rare moment of relief in an otherwise agonising search for information that has included two trips to the region and numerous meetings with anyone who will talk to them.

"We will meet with anybody," Debra says. "If you tell me a taxi driver on a street corner in the middle of nowhere knows how to get my son home, I will go meet with him."

"We would go to Damascus, if it was purposeful, if we were invited," adds Marc.

US officials believe Tice is being held by the regime of President Bashar al-Assad, which is fighting an armed rebellion triggered by a bloody crackdown on democracy protests that broke out in March 2011.

The Tices say the Syrian government denies any record of their son being in the country, but has agreed to search for him.

"Honestly, we're not that interested in who or why, we're interested in how do we get him back, what is needed to return him to us safely," Marc says.

As part of their search, the family has set up a website, www.austinticefamily.com, where anyone with information can contact them.

And they urge their son's captors to reach out.

"We ask you to keep him safe, take care of him, let him know that he's loved and people are looking for him and especially let us know how we can bring him home again."

In the meanwhile, Tice's family are trying to lead something approaching a normal life, celebrating birthdays and graduations.

"You can just never really give your heart fully to joy, because there's this 'where's our big guy?' feeling," Debra says.

"He's so profoundly missing for us."

The separation is particularly hard for Debra, who homeschooled her seven children.

"The only thing I ever wanted to do was to be a mummy of lots of kids!" she laughs.

Tice is one of at least seven reporters missing in Syria, including James Foley, an American video contributor to AFP who has not been heard from since last November.

The Tices say they have reached out to the families of other missing reporters to share information and support.

"It's a club that the membership price is very steep, no one wants to join," Debra says quietly.

She thinks often about how she will react when she is reunited with Austin.

"You know that feeling when your child lets go of your hand in the mall?" she says with a smile.

"You're frantic and you're looking, and then you find them, and first you hug them and then you spank them? It's that kind of reaction."


Copyright © 2013 AFP. All rights reserved.




July 03, 2013


Karen Leigh (@leighstream) - Syria Deeply – July 03, 2013
In Beirut, A Family’s Search for Austin Tice



On August 13, 2012, Austin Tice, a 31-year-old American journalist writing for McClatchy newswires, the Washington Post and other publications vanished without a trace from the Damascus suburb where he’d been living and working.

Tice, a former USMC infantry officer, had put his law studies at Georgetown University on hold to cover the Syrian conflict.

In May, Global Post, investigating the disappearance of one of its own freelance reporters, James Foley, said it believed Foley, along with at least one other American journalist (widely believed to be Tice) was being held by the Syrian regime in the vicinity of the capital.

On a fact-finding visit to Beirut this week, Austin’s parents, Marc and Debra Tice, talked with Syria Deeply.

Syria Deeply: You had to be nervous when he said, “I’m moving to Syria.”

Marc: Going back to when he told us that he was going to go to Syria in the first place, if you know Austin, you know that he’s not reckless, he’s incredibly thoughtful, he’s not impulsive. He’s also incredibly passionate and determined, and when he decides he needs to do something, that’s what he’s going to do. He didn’t go lightly. He talked to a lot of people before he went. He does have training. He’s not new to areas of crisis. So we had that confidence. On the other hand, of course you’re concerned.

Debra: But I still get concerned when he’s home and rides his bike without a helmet.


Austin Tice / Courtesy Tice Family

Marc: Or the motorcycle he bought.

Debra: Oh my gosh.

Marc: We learned a long time ago not to talk him out of something. We try to ask whatever questions we can ask to make sure he’s thought of anything. What advice do we have to give him about journalism in Syria? We don’t have any.

Debra: My personality – Austin was home-schooled – is that a job half-done is a job wholly undone. So for him to want to tell this story, he needed to do all he could to get the whole story. It was important to him to try to understand all sides of the story. He just wouldn’t be satisfied with half. It had to be all.

SD: Was it an anomaly not to hear from him?

Marc: If we didn’t Google chat or Facebook with him [personally], we saw where he had chatted or emailed or talked to somebody, and we know all the people he was talking to. So pretty much every day, we’d communicate with him or know he was communicating with someone. One time we didn’t hear from him for two days, and –

Debra: I knew that I was on very thin ice when I picked up the phone for the first time, found his editor’s name and number in a directory, and called and said, I know I’m going to be in really big trouble for this, but …

Marc: And sure enough, when he popped back up, he was furious. “That was so unprofessional! I don’t want my mom calling my editor!” But his editor was a bear of a guy with a big heart.

Debra: They’ve been stellar for us.

Marc: That was the only time we’d not been in touch or heard anything from him.

Debra: And then he really drilled it into us, you can’t be freaking out after five minutes of not hearing from me.

Marc: So then when it was three days, four days, we’d developed a good relationship with the people at McClatchy. Debbie was canoeing in the boundary waters in Minnesota, and I was at home. I called McClatchy, and they said, We haven’t heard from him either, and we’re concerned. We got a call back from the Washington bureau chief who said we’ve got word out, then we got a call from the State Department that they’d been alerted and were seeing what they could do. And every day since then has been, OK, tomorrow we’re going to hear from him, tomorrow he’ll be released.

Debra: Our phones are on all the time, with us.

SD: Were you aware of the risks faced in Syria by freelance journalists?

Marc: When he went, he had an arrangement with McClatchy. So we knew he had a shot – originally he was only going to do photos – and that there would be someone that would look at him and get him published. I didn’t think about insurance, support, backup. I do now. Because we’re connected to organizations like Reporters without Borders. I guess if we had known about all this, we would have asked those questions.

Debra: We knew Austin would know the questions to have asked.

Marc: I don’t worry about him knowing basic field first aid. Of course he does. And he’s big, tough and very smart.

SD: He won the Polk Award while missing. It’s arguably the most prestigious award a journalist can win for Syria coverage.

Debra: It was so affirming that he was on the right path and doing something he’s very gifted at. And on the other hand …

Marc: He will be, if he doesn’t know now, he will be thrilled. And McClatchy gave him their President’s Award. It’s a great thing, you want to celebrate, but you can’t really celebrate. It is affirming, for him and for us, I hope, confirming that he was there as a journalist, that’s what he was all about. And he wasn’t some crazy guy taking a flier. He was capable. He was a freelancer, but – he had a contract going in, he picked up a couple more when he was there, he won the Polk. He wasn’t looking for adventure. He was doing a job.

Debra: Before he left, when he was letting news outlets know that he was going, he was really adamant about personal interviews [with editors]. He really didn’t want to just have electronic relationships. He’s a firstborn son, Type A, driven, confident. In August, he started getting calls from the BBC, from CBS, saying, can you do a spot for us?

Marc: He felt trained and ready to be a photojournalist. And then his editor asked him to write a backstory on a photo. When he did, his editor said, “And now you will write an article.”

Debra: He will be thrilled and proud and happy to have been recognized for what he was doing. He was confident that he could do this, but he’d never done it before. Anytime you try your hand at something you haven’t done before professionally, succeeding is a thrill.

(The Tice family welcomes tips and information at www.austinticefamily.com.)
June 27, 2013


Parents of kidnapped American journalist in Syria urge his release
Al Arabiya - Thursday, 27 June 2013

Parents of a missing American journalist in Syria urged their son’s kidnappers to release him or hand over information on his status, in an interview with Al Arabiya on Thursday.

The journalist, Austin Tice, was kidnapped from a Damascus suburb called Darya on Aug. 13, 2012.

The parents are currently in the Lebanese capital, Beirut, attempting to obtain any information they can on their son’s whereabouts.

Austin’s father said the family is receiving help from both the American and Syrian government, adding that Damascus promised the family they will help find the missing journalist.


June 27, 2013 12:44 AM
By Olivia Alabaster

The Daily Star

BEIRUT: Ten months after their son went missing in Syria, Debra and Marc Tice say that while every day feels like a recurring nightmare they are still confident that they will be reunited one day. Getting ready to head to Beirut after having spent the summer reporting for the Washington Post and McClatchy newspapers, Texas native Austin was kidnapped last August, two days after his 31st birthday.

His last tweet read, “Spent the day at an FSA pool party with music by @taylorswift13. They even brought me whiskey. Hands down, best birthday ever.”

In September, a brief video clip emerged on a pro-Assad site of a blindfolded Austin, being led by a group of armed men shouting “Allahu Akbar,” but there has been doubt cast over whether these were genuine Islamists or Assad loyalists posing as such.

Speaking a month later, U.S. State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said that “to the best of our knowledge, we think he [Tice] is in Syrian government custody.” The Tices themselves said they would leave speculation up to others.

“We’re not particularly interested in the story of how and why. We’re just interested in getting him back,” Marc said in an interview with The Daily Star Wednesday.

The couple is back in Beirut to try and follow up on Austin’s case, having previously visited in November.

They chose to return now, they said, due to the rapid ground developments in Syria, and the changing situation in Beirut itself.

A renewed diplomatic push, namely by the U.S. and Russia for Geneva II peace talks, has also encouraged the Tices, even though it keeps being pushed back as the two sides squabble over the details.

“There is so much more international and diplomatic impetus happening now. Really all we have is our voice, and we want to make sure that it is heard,” Marc said.

The eldest of seven children, Austin was in the middle of a law degree when he decided to come to Syria to write, because, as Marc remembers, “he was hearing reports from Syria saying this is happening and that is happening but it can’t be confirmed because there really are no reporters on the ground. And he said, ‘You know, this is a story that the world needs to know about.’”

They are reticent to say they have made progress – “progress would be something tangible. Success is when we have him home again,” Marc said. The Tices say they are encouraged that while all the Syrian government originally said was, “We don’t have him and we don’t know where he is,” they have now vowed “to us that they will look for him and that they will hold him safe and release him to us.”

In a close-knit family, Austin’s absence “hangs over everything,” Marc said. The couple recounted all the birthdays and graduations he had already missed this year, but it is also the support of his younger siblings which is so vital to them now.

However, he said, “the days don’t get any easier.”

“It is unimaginable because you know, I wake up and realize it was not a nightmare. And so it’s just that feeling of – another day. Sometimes you don’t know if you’re waking or sleeping, because it’s so unreal,” Debra said.

But while so many other people would be angry in a similar situation, the Tices believe only in forgiveness.

“We’re asking for mercy and so when I feel my emotions tending in a negative way, I just think, I’m asking for mercy, so I just want to be a person who is very quick to give mercy,” Debra said.

Also, Marc said, in a conflict which has left around 100,000 dead and around 18,000 missing, and rendered nearly 2 million people refugees, they recognize that they are not the only ones to suffer.

“If we start getting angry or indignant,” Marc said, in the gentlest tones, “we’re humbled by the fact that there are hundreds of thousands of people whose lives have been turned upside down. The refugees, the people that have lost their loved ones. Our pain, frustration, anger kind of pales in comparison to all of that.”

“Where does anger get us? Nowhere,” he added.

They would admit to being frustrated though, frustrated at the lack of a note or a call, from either Austin or his captors, “to know something definitive about how he is or where he is. But most importantly, when is he going to be back with us?” Marc asked.

However, the outpouring of support has been overwhelming, the Tices said, from those who worked with Austin to strangers and officials from the State Department.

Since disappearing, Austin has received two awards for his journalism – the George Polk Award for War Reporting and the McClatchy President’s Award for Journalism Excellence – but Marc and Debra could not attend because, “instead of celebration speeches, they became condolence speeches.”

The message that Austin’s parents want to spread now is that whoever is holding him has gained nothing from doing so, but that “there’s something to be gained from his release. And that’s what we’re trying to get across, and trying to do what we can to make that happen.”

“We have not yet touched the heart of the person holding him. So we have to keep asking, and make sure that our desire for his return, our request for mercy, gets to the right person,” Marc explained.

As Debra added, “There’s no manual for this. We wish there was but ... we’re making this up as we go along, and asking for help.”

Anyone with details on the whereabouts of Austin Tice can contact the family at: information@austinticefamily.com.


June 20, 2013
Senators send letter to Secretary of State John Kerry


Senators Write Kerry about Missing Journalists



June 5, 2013
Parents of kidnapped journalist grateful for Pope's words
By Kevin J. Jones
www.catholicnewsagency.com




Austin Tice. Courtesy of The Tice Family.


Houston, Texas, Jun 5, 2013 / 06:04 am (CNA/EWTN News).- The parents of kidnapped American journalist Austin Tice have appealed again for his release, voicing gratitude for Pope Francis' words on behalf of all abducted victims in the Syrian conflict.


“It is a tremendous comfort to know the Holy Father is praying for the people of Syria, and that he has personally appealed to the humanity of kidnappers to release their victims,” Marc and Debra Tice of Houston, Texas told CNA June 3.


On Monday, Pope Francis denounced the “scourge of kidnapping” in Syria and appealed to captors' humanity to free the victims. Those recently abducted in the country include two Orthodox Christian bishops.


The Pope's message was personally relevant to the Tices, whose son Austin disappeared in August 2012 near the Damascus suburb of Daraya where he was reporting on the Syrian conflict. Austin, a 31-year-old former Marine Corps captain and Georgetown University graduate, was working as a freelance reporter for the Washington Post and McClatchy News Service.


The Tices said their son, the oldest of seven children, is “all Texan: big, loud and friendly.” They noted how his photographs of Syrians, especially local children, show “his respect for the humanity of the Syrian people.”


“From what we've heard, his respect was reciprocated,” they said. “You could hear in his voice how happily and deeply he was engaged in his work.”


Austin Tice has now been missing for more than nine months.


His parents do not know for certain who is holding him captive, and recent developments in the Syrian conflict could affect Austin's future.


Debra Tice said that the situation of the Daraya area has recently been “very fluid” as opposition groups and the Syrian government contest control.


“We feel this could increase his chances of escape or rescue and ask everyone in the area to be aggressively searching for him in order to secure his safe return to us,” she explained.


“Additionally, the upcoming U.S.- and Russian-led peace talks scheduled in Geneva offer an opportunity for discussion by all parties regarding the release of captives.”


Marc Tice also saw some hopeful signs. “The best development in the past few months has been the commitment we’ve received from more than one Syrian official,” he said. “They’ve told us and others that the Syrian government will do everything it can to locate Austin and return him safely.


“We have been assured through many channels that Austin is alive and being treated well, yet we have no concrete evidence of who is holding him or how to secure his release and return.”


In September 2012 a 47-second video of the journalist was posted on a pro-Syrian government website and appears to implicate Islamic militants in the kidnapping. The clip shows Austin blindfolded in the custody of armed men as he tries to recite in Arabic the shahada or Muslim declaration of faith, the Associated Press reported. He then switches to English and says “Oh Jesus. Oh Jesus.”


Some critics of the video have said it appears to be staged, possibly by pro-Syrian government forces who want to discredit the opposition, the Christian Science Monitor wrote in December 2012.


The Czech embassy, which is representing the U.S. in Syria after its own embassy closed in 2011, in December said its sources believe Tice is being held captive by the Syrian government. The Syrian government, however, denied those reports.


Syria's contradicting stories are part of what drew Austin Tice to the country. His father said he was among those who sought to find the truth about the two-year-old conflict between supporters and opponents of the government of President Bashar Assad.


“Austin told me he was frustrated by early reports out of Syria which couldn't be confirmed because no verifiable reports were available,” Marc said.


“He told me he believed the story of this conflict needed to be told and that he believed he had the skills to do it. Considering the recognition and awards he’s received for his work, I'm inclined to believe he was right.”


Since his kidnapping, Tice has been awarded the George Polk Award for War Reporting and the McClatchy President’s Award for Journalism Excellence.


Austin's parents said their son did not join them in converting to Catholicism in 1999, but he was raised with “a firm foundation in the Christian faith.”


“He has memorized a great deal of Holy Scripture and learned the Catechism,” his parents said. “He enjoyed listening to theological discussions on Christian radio. In times of stress and trouble, he relies on the unwavering love of God.”


Debra reflected that her faith has helped her during this time of uncertainty.


“I firmly believe God is in control and pray for His will to be done. I know it is God’s desire for all people to live in peace. I pray constantly for an outpouring of mercy to restore peace to our family, to Syria, the Levant, and the entire world,” she said.


She also noted the positive effect of knowing that people around the world are praying for Austin and the Tice family. “These prayers give us hope and strength; undoubtedly they are also a source of great comfort for our son.”


Marc said that the kidnapping of his son “has challenged the foundations on which my faith has been built – much of which I am sure needed to be challenged.”


“As a convert to Catholicism, I was especially drawn to the way the Church expressed faith as a journey, and how understanding and enlightenment was not necessarily a flash of brilliance, rather a life-long process. I trust this part of my journey will leave me not only changed but stronger,” he said.


Debra voiced her love in a message directed to her son, saying: “We work and pray daily for your safe return. Do not despair; remain steadfast in faith.”


Both parents urged their son's captors to keep him safe and treat him well. “Have compassion on us and let him come home,” Marc said.


The Tice family asks anyone with information about Austin to contact them through their website, www.austinticefamily.com.






May 31, 2013

Missing Journalist Austin Tice's Parents To Travel To Beirut

May 31, 2013

by: AP
HOUSTON (AP) — Parents of a freelance journalist who disappeared while covering the Syrian civil war hope upcoming talks aimed at peace between the Syrian government and rebels will hasten his release.


In a statement issued through a family spokesman Thursday, Austin Tice's parents said they plan to travel from Houston to Beirut soon "to reach more deeply into the region on behalf of our son."

Marc and Debra Tice say they're uncertain who is holding their son. They asked all sides of the Syrian insurrection to "keep Austin in their minds" as peace talks approach. They also ask that the Syrian government "search vigorously for Austin in order to secure his safe return."

The 31-year-old ex-Marine was one of a few journalists reporting from Damascus when he vanished last August.

May 31, 2013





May 31, 2013
Full Length Interview: Fox Report with Shepard Smith

May 31, 2013


May 30, 2013


May 30, 2013



May 30, 2013


May 30, 2013





May 30, 2013
Interview: Fox Report with Shepard Smith



May 29, 2013
Interview with PressTV


Parents of missing American journalist in Syria hopeful
Parents of the missing American journalist, Austin Tice, have expressed hope the conflict in Syria would end soon.

The American freelance journalist, who has been writing regularly for the Washington Post and other US media, has gone missing in Syria since mid-August 2012.

Austin’s parents are hopeful that Geneva 2 talks would be successful and that a solution would end the suffering and impact of the conflict in Syria.

“Well one thing that is clear or is at least clear to us is that the situation in Syria is extremely fluid, changing from day to day and one of our hopes and I guess maybe it’s just a parent’s hope is that with changes and with movements the opportunity for Austin to be found is greater,” Austin’s parents told Press TV.

“It would be our desire that hostilities and violence stop and we hope the international community can find a way for that to happen,” they added.

“But at the same time we are very hopeful that someone that sees this interview or hears us speaking and knows something about our son, where Austin is, would contact us.”

On Monday, Yara Abbas, working with Syria's private al-Ikhbariya TV, was killed by sniper fire near al-Daba'a military airport, just outside Qusayr, as she was covering an army assault on the airport.

The Syria crisis began in March 2011, and many people, including large numbers of soldiers and security personnel, have been killed in the violence.

The Syrian government says the chaos is being orchestrated from outside the country, and there are reports that a very large number of the militants are foreign nationals.

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad said on May 23, “Syria is determined to tackle terrorism and those who support it regionally and globally, and to find a political solution to the crisis.”
IA/PR


December 21, 2012

Free war-zone journalist Austin Tice

By Marcus Brauchli and Anders Gyllenhaal, Published: December 21

Marcus Brauchli is executive editor of The Washington Post, and Anders Gyllenhaal is vice president for news at McClatchy. They can be reached at brauchlim@washpost.com and agyllenhaal@mcclatchy.com.

Austin Tice was well on his way to a law degree when the pull of journalism got to be too much for him. Fascinated with the Middle East and frustrated with news coverage he saw as often too shallow, he decided to see if he could do better.

“It always drove Austin crazy when they’d say on the news, this couldn’t be confirmed because it’s too difficult to report,’’ Marc Tice, Austin’s father, told us. “He thought, ‘I’ve got the ability to do this. I can get in there and get these stories.’ ’’

Four months ago, Tice was captured in Syria, where he had been delivering on that commitment with fresh and compelling freelance reports that were regularly published in The Post and McClatchy newspapers. While the wait for news on his whereabouts drags on, we want to make the case for why this work is so vital and why he should be released.

We also want to draw attention to the delicate role of foreign reporters in places such as Syria. Understanding the savage tableau of war helps citizens, societies and governments make judgments and set policies that affect millions of people. At its best, journalism may save lives by making the costs and consequences of war more vivid.

Inevitably, journalists take risks when they cover wars. We have both lost friends and colleagues in battle; one of us has a brother, a photographer, who was wounded seriously 20 years ago in Sarajevo. But the risks should not include kidnapping, torture or murder.

And yet, so far this year, according to the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists, 67 journalists have been killed in direct relation to their work.

In Syria, the number killed in combat or murdered this year is 28, a rate that the committee says approaches the worst annual tally of the Iraq war. Foreign and Syrian reporters alike have been killed. Even the head of Libya’s state-run news agency, SANA, was assassinated. This week, five days after they were kidnapped, NBC’s chief foreign correspondent, Richard Engel, and his crew escaped following a gunfight between their captors and rebels.

Many of the journalists at risk in conflict zones today aren’t on staff at big, traditional news organizations. The uprisings and revolutions in the Middle East have attracted freelance journalists who don’t need mainstream news outlets to reach an audience. New technologies enable them to upload video directly to YouTube or report battles in real time to followers on Twitter or Facebook.

Like many freelancers, Tice followed an unusual path to foreign reporting, an assignment that can take decades to earn on a big newspaper’s staff. A captain in the Marines who served tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, Tice left the service and enrolled in Georgetown University’s law school. It was just after his second year when he decided to give in to the tug of journalism that dated to high school.

Equipped with cameras, an exquisite writing talent and an instinct for finding his way to the center of things, Tice slipped over the Turkish border into Syria in May. At one point, he managed to get by checkpoints in Damascus by dressing as a woman despite his 6-foot-3, 200-pound frame.

His work has been courageous and professional, contributing to the montage of truth that has shaped the world’s understanding of the Syrian conflict. Although he traveled mostly with the rebels, Tice was as interested in one side as the other, in capturing opposing viewpoints and casualties.

He focused on how the rebels were gaining momentum over the summer. He also helped to break the news in August that rebels were carrying out executions and torture. He was often on the front lines of the conflict. He celebrated his 31st birthday, he noted in his last Twitter post before his capture in mid-August, to the sounds of bombs landing nearby.

Information on his captivity, and even on who is holding him, has been hard to confirm despite the constant efforts of his family, our news organizations and other contacts in the United States and other governments.

Tice entered Syria without a visa, as have the majority of those covering this story. As he enters his fifth month of captivity, he has long since paid the price if this is seen as a violation of the country’s borders.

We believe his own story makes the best argument for his release.

He surely has met the high standards of quality and fairness he first thought about back in Afghanistan. Austin Tice has served both Syria and the wider world with reporting that cannot exist without such dedicated journalists. Those responsible for his capture and detention have a moral obligation to return him to his family, his friends and his work.

Read more from Tice and Syria:

Austin Tice and Liz Sly: Syrian rebels still hopeful as government regains initiative in Damascus

Austin Tice: In Syria, an oasis from war

December 13, 2012

Interview with Christiane Amanpour


By Claire Calzonetti, Samuel Burke & Mick Krever CNN

“I don’t have a death wish; I have a life wish,” Austin Tice wrote after his third month in Syria, working as a freelance journalist. “Coming here to Syria is the greatest thing I’ve ever done, and it’s the greatest feeling of my life.”

That was in July. A month later he was kidnapped, and is still missing today.

His parents, Marc and Debra Tice, say they are “absolutely” certain Austin is still alive. They sat down for a rare interview with CNN’s Christiane Amanpour on Thursday to explain their son’s story, and plead for his safe return.

Thirty-one-year-old Austin Tice disappeared in mid-August while reporting outside Damascus. His writing had been featured in the Washington Post and McClatchy newspapers.

In what would be the final Tweet before his capture in August, the Texas native appeared to be in good spirits. On August 11 he wrote, “Spent the day at an FSA pool party with music by [Taylor Swift]. They even brought me whiskey. Hands down, best birthday ever.”

The Tices talked almost daily with their son, then suddenly they heard nothing from him for weeks.

After an agonizing wait, a video of the journalist surfaced on YouTube in September. The 47-second video showed Tice, obviously in distress, being led up a hill by armed and masked men chanting “Allahu Akbar” – God is the greatest.

Debra Tice said she went into physical shock when she saw the video, but also realized what it meant: Austin was still alive.

Tice’s father told Amanpour that “No parents, no family should see their son, their child, their sibling, in those circumstances,” but he hopes the video might ultimately lead to contact with whomever is holding their son.

Analysts say the video looks staged and that there are reasons to believe the men in the video are not the Islamic extremists they purport to be.

The U.S. State Department believes Tice is actually being held by the Syrian regime, a charge Damascus denies.

Tice’s parents say they do not want to speculate about who is holding him – they just want their son back home.

Debra Tice described Austin, the eldest of her seven children, as a passionate man. She tried to explain, for a mother, the seemingly inexplicable: Why her son would go to one of the most violent countries on earth.

“He likes to know what's going on in the world,” she said, and he was frustrated by the lack first-hand reporting from Syria’s civil war. He told her, “‘I'm someone that can go. I can face that danger because this story is important.’”

On the chance that Austin sees the interview his parents spoke directly to him: “Austin, we love you … we’re doing everything we can to get you safely home.”

The Tice family has established a website to help find their son: http://www.austinticefamily.com/
December 12, 2012


Interview with Alhurra (Arabic)




November 18, 2012
Interview with RT TV (Arabic)

http://arabic.rt.com/news_all_news/news/600075/

Our thanks to RT TV's Arabic language service for conducting and broadcasting this interview, which was done during our trip to Beirut seeking support for Austin's release.

November 12, 2012

Transcript of Press Conference at Beirut Press Club


Marc: Thank you for coming here today. My name is Marc Tice, and this is my wife Debra. We are the parents of Austin Tice, a journalist who was last working in Syria and with whom we’ve had no contact since August 13. We’re here today to appeal for information about Austin. If anyone who hears this has any information about Austin and especially what we can do to bring him home, please tell us. We have a website where you can send us an email: austinticefamily.com.



We know we are not the only family who has suffered. Austin’s silence has given us some understanding of the anxieties and uncertainties that so many families in this part of the world are experiencing. We love our son. He is a fine man, a good journalist and we want everything to be well with him. We ask whoever is holding Austin to treat him well, to keep him safe, and to return him to us as soon as possible. Again, anyone who hears this and can help us find Austin, talk with him and get him back safely, please send us an email information@austintice.com.

Now Debi would like to say a few words:

Debi: Thank you all for coming, we really appreciate it and we count on your support. Austin is the oldest of our seven children. We are a big close family. We have all felt a terrible void in this prolonged silence. With the approaching holiday season we are even more dismayed by the empty chair at our family table. We miss Austin’s knowing smile, his big laugh and his great story telling. The energetic joy in our home has been greatly diminished by his absence. Austin loves being the big brother, he hugs and lifts his sister off the floor, and he constantly challenges his brothers to excellence. When they play games, a great and rare joy is expressed in besting Austin.

Austin is a cherished son and beloved brother. If he were your son and your brother I ask, what would you do to find him and return him to your family? Who would you most want to speak to? We are asking that anyone who can put us in touch with information about Austin - please go to our website, austinticefamily.com, and contact us. We love Austin dearly and will do anything to have him safely return to our family.

And now I’d like to speak directly to my son, in case he can hear this. My precious Austin, I love you dearly. I hold you tenderly in my heart and I pray for you constantly. Your brothers and sisters love you and think of you every minute. Be assured we will do all we can to bring you safely home.

Questions (transcribed as closely as possible)

Q: When did you last hear of him, how long was he in Syria? Were you in touch with him and where did he go in from?

Marc: The last contact we had from him was on August 13. What we want more than anything else is contact with him now and that’s really what we’re asking for and of course to bring him home. We emailed, we chatted, used social media to speak to him very frequently while he was in Syria so when we stopped hearing from him we became very concerned.

Q: Where did he enter Syria?

Debra: From Turkey

Q: So why are you here?

Debra: We are appealing to everyone and anyone for information about Austin and how we can bring him home.

Q: Who have you reached out to in Syrian government and what has been their response.

Marc: We have been in touch directly and indirectly with people in the Syrian government. They have indicated to us they don’t know where Austin is and we are reaching out to everyone that we can get in touch with to try to get their help in determining where Austin is and what we need to do bring him home.

Debra: Someone knows where our son is and we are beseeching that person to reach out to us and allow us to speak with him.

Q: Did you contact Turkish and Lebanese authorities?

Marc: We have a number of friends who are helping us and we have reached out to many of those authorities and will continue to do so and that is one reason why we are here, to reach out to anyone who can give us information.

Q: The Syrian authorities deny they have him, have you had any contact with any armed gang who are asking for money or any indication the Syrians are looking for him?

Debra: We really have no idea who is holding our son and that is our main purpose, to try to make contact with our son, to try to make contact and bring him home. We have no idea who is holding him.

Marc: We are contacting as best we can every group, every organization to try to get an answer to those questions.

Q: Has anyone told you they are looking for him whether political religious leaders etc?

Debra: We are profoundly grateful and humbled and amazed by the outpouring of assistance and support that we have received. There are many people who are working and looking and of course all over the world there are people praying with me.

Marc: That is correct. He has been in Syria since he entered in May and right now we have no idea exactly where he is or who he is with, and again our focus is to try to reach out and hope someone can contact us with information about what we need to do. We would like to make it clear that we will do whatever we can do to safely bring him home.

Q: Does this include paying ransom?

Marc: We have no idea what will be required and we would like to know from whoever is holding him what it is we need to do.

Debra: We believe he was in Daraya when he disappeared, and we are prepared to do whatever is necessary, whatever appears to be most beneficial in order to return our son.

Q: Did the video give you any clues?

Marc: No. We are hoping for some contact that will let us know who has him and what we need to do.

Q: Is the US Embassy or US officials involved?

Debra: We’ve had appropriate and amazing support in our search for our son and our decision to come to this area was driven by the fact that we want to expand our efforts and put ourselves in the position of being available for contacts.

Q: Has the free Syrian army contacted you? Are you staying here? Will you go to Syria?

Marc: We have not been contacted by anyone. We are here this week and if it would be productive for us to come back again, or go anywhere else for that matter; we’re willing to do that.

Q: What can journalists do?

Marc: The response from other journalists here in the region and honestly around the world has been humbling. It’s an amazing group of people. We have such an appreciation for their support and care. We would ask any journalist, by the nature of their work they speak to many people…so we would ask that they ask for information about Austin and if they receive any information please contact us.

Q: Do you think after you get your son back you will detach yourself from Syria?

Debra: Sometimes I feel that maybe I have a Middle Eastern heart so I think that my admiration for the culture and my love for the people and my enjoyment of the food is going to be a lifelong attachment.

Marc: I would say it’s impossible for an experience like this not to stay with you. We want no one to experience the kind of pain and longing and uncertainty that we and others are experiencing.

Before you leave…

Let me ask whoever is holding Austin, please treat him well, keep him safe, and return him to us as soon as you can.

Thank you.




November 09, 2012
SKeyes Statements | Lebanon


Kidnapped Journalist Austin Tice’s Parents to Hold a Press Conference in Beirut
November 9, 2012
Source: Beirut - SKeyes

Marc and Debra Tice, American freelance journalist Austin Tice’s parents, who was kidnapped in Syria on August 12, 2012, will hold a press conference on Monday, November 12, 2012, at 11 am at the Press Club in Furn el Chebbak, to talk about their son’s disappearance and urge relevant parties to release him.

On August 12, Austin Tice went missing in the Rif Dimashq Governorate, after weeks of covering the fighting between the Free Syrian Army and the Syrian government forces. On September 26, a video showing Tice blindfolded and surrounded by a group of armed men wearing the traditional Afghan clothes was released on YouTube. The kidnappers’ identity as well as Tice’s location could not be determined and his fate remains unknown. On October 8, Tice’s parents called on the Syrian government to help release their son.

Tice works as a freelance correspondent for The Washington Post and other news agencies such as McClatchy, CBC News, Al-Jazeera English and Agence France-Press among others.

The SKeyes Center for Media and Cultural Freedom invites all audiovisual, print and electronic media, whether Lebanese, Arab or international, to cover the press conference on Monday, in order to contribute to Tice’s release and that of all Syrian and foreign journalists detained by the Syrian regime or the armed opposition.

For more information, please contact Ayman Mhanna, SKeyes Center Executive Director, by e-mail (amhanna@skeyesmedia.org) or by phone (+9611397331). You can also contact Philip Elwood, the media advisor for the Tice family, by e-mail (pelwood@levick.com) or by phone (+12025072229).

October 05, 2012


http://arabic.rt.com/news_all_news/news/596233/
Thank you to RT TV's Arabic language service for broadcasting our statement appealing for information on Austin's condition and situation
11:39
Banner unveiling event at the Newseum Speakers include Debra Tice, Austin Tice’s mother; Jeffrey Herbst, 
Newseum President and CEO; Delphine Halgand, RSF US Director; and Douglas Jehl, Washington Post Foreign Editor.

November 1, 2016

Austin Tice’s mother asks her son’s captors to let her know what they expect


Debra Tice is the mother of Austin Tice, an American journalist held captive in Syria. (Jahi Chikwendiu/The Washington Post)
By Carol Morello November 1 

There are many important and scary details that Debra Tice does not know about her son Austin. She has no idea exactly where he is, or who his captors have been since he vanished while reporting in Syria more than four years ago.

But of this, she is certain: Austin Tice is alive, apparently in decent health, and he is being held against his will somewhere in Syria.

“I’m trying to reach whoever is holding him and compel them to realize, it’s time to release him and let him come home,” Tice said Tuesday in an interview in Washington, where she is set to attend the unveiling Wednesday of a banner in her son’s honor at the Newseum.

The banner displays a photo of a smiling Austin Tice, his sunglasses pushed up jauntily on top of his head, and the succinct description of his situation: “Held captive for being a journalist since August 2012.”

It is to remain on the Newseum’s facade until he is returned safely to his family in Houston. Unless he is released before Inauguration Day, the new president will go directly past the banner on the way to and from the Capitol.

Austin Tice, who has contributed to The Washington Post, is one of at least 430 journalists and citizen journalists being held around the world, according to Reporters Without Borders. (Family photo)

“We’re very conscious of our place on Pennsylvania Avenue,” Newseum President Jeffrey Herbst said. “Our role is to bring his cause to the public. I think we’re fulfilling our mission, making sure people know that someone who wanted to inform the world of what’s happening in Syria is still missing.”

According to Reporters Without Borders, at least 430 journalists and citizen journalists are being detained around the world, either by governments or as hostages. Tice is the only American reporter among them.

A handful of countries account for many of the imprisoned reporters on the list. Turkey alone is responsible for jailing at least 130 reporters since a crackdown on the media in the wake of a failed coup in July. The other countries high on the list are China, Iran, Egypt, Vietnam and Syria.

Tice, a former Marine who is now 35, was a freelance reporter whose stories from Syria appeared in The Washington Post, McClatchy and other news outlets. His family has never received any ransom demands. The only time his captors have reached out to prove they had him was six weeks after he disappeared, when they posted a brief YouTube video showing him being led blindfolded up a rocky hillside surrounded by gunmen. He was reciting a Koranic verse in Arabic when he interjected in English, “Oh, Jesus. Oh, Jesus.”

[Austin Tice, two years later: A plea from his parents]

Early in his captivity, there were reports that he had been taken by the Syrian regime. State Department officials have also said that they believe he is in the custody of the government. But lately they have had nothing new to report, and the Syrian government has denied holding Tice or knowing where he is.

Debra Tice said she cannot reveal all that she has learned about her son’s situation without endangering him, but said she believes that he is not being held by antigovernment rebels or Islamic State militants. That leaves the government, or forces loyal to it.

She admits to being frustrated that her son’s plight has not received more attention from the American public, and she said she hopes the Newseum banner changes that.

“In France, when someone is missing, the family expects to hear from the president immediately, and a banner is put up,” she said. “I’ve wondered, where are the banners for Austin?”

She said the Obama administration has been helpful and collaborative since adopting a new hostage policy in 2015 and naming a special hostage envoy. Debra and Marc Tice met with President Obama in July, and he assured the parents that he is committed to their son’s safe return. She holds out hope that it will happen before Obama leaves office in January.

“Austin’s captors have to reach out and let us know what they expect,” she said. “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.”

One thing that the past four years have taught her, she said, is that many Americans are apathetic to the danger journalists sometimes face.

“I consider the banner at the Newseum to be a call to Americans to protect and respect journalists,” she said. “Austin’s captivity and the lack of passion about getting him home represents a complacency about journalists. Where do we hear the relentless voice calling for the release of this journalist? Where do we see the counter on TV that’s a piece of our daily bread? This journalist has spent 1,451 days in captivity. It’s appalling.”

Read more:

Austin Tice: ‘It’s nice and all, but please quit telling me to be safe’

Obama administration to stop threatening prosecution of hostage families for paying ransom


Austin Tice’s mother asks her son’s captors to let her  know what they expect


Debra Tice is the mother of Austin Tice, an American journalist held captive in Syria. (Jahi Chikwendiu/The Washington Post)
By Carol Morello November 1 

There are many important and scary details that Debra Tice does not know about her son Austin. She has no idea exactly where he is, or who his captors have been since he vanished while reporting in Syria more than four years ago.

But of this, she is certain: Austin Tice is alive, apparently in decent health, and he is being held against his will somewhere in Syria.

“I’m trying to reach whoever is holding him and compel them to realize, it’s time to release him and let him come home,” Tice said Tuesday in an interview in Washington, where she is set to attend the unveiling Wednesday of a banner in her son’s honor at the Newseum.

The banner displays a photo of a smiling Austin Tice, his sunglasses pushed up jauntily on top of his head, and the succinct description of his situation: “Held captive for being a journalist since August 2012.”

It is to remain on the Newseum’s facade until he is returned safely to his family in Houston. Unless he is released before Inauguration Day, the new president will go directly past the banner on the way to and from the Capitol.

Austin Tice, who has contributed to The Washington Post, is one of at least 430 journalists and citizen journalists being held around the world, according to Reporters Without Borders. (Family photo)

“We’re very conscious of our place on Pennsylvania Avenue,” Newseum President Jeffrey Herbst said. “Our role is to bring his cause to the public. I think we’re fulfilling our mission, making sure people know that someone who wanted to inform the world of what’s happening in Syria is still missing.”

According to Reporters Without Borders, at least 430 journalists and citizen journalists are being detained around the world, either by governments or as hostages. Tice is the only American reporter among them.

A handful of countries account for many of the imprisoned reporters on the list. Turkey alone is responsible for jailing at least 130 reporters since a crackdown on the media in the wake of a failed coup in July. The other countries high on the list are China, Iran, Egypt, Vietnam and Syria.

Tice, a former Marine who is now 35, was a freelance reporter whose stories from Syria appeared in The Washington Post, McClatchy and other news outlets. His family has never received any ransom demands. The only time his captors have reached out to prove they had him was six weeks after he disappeared, when they posted a brief YouTube video showing him being led blindfolded up a rocky hillside surrounded by gunmen. He was reciting a Koranic verse in Arabic when he interjected in English, “Oh, Jesus. Oh, Jesus.”

[Austin Tice, two years later: A plea from his parents]

Early in his captivity, there were reports that he had been taken by the Syrian regime. State Department officials have also said that they believe he is in the custody of the government. But lately they have had nothing new to report, and the Syrian government has denied holding Tice or knowing where he is.

Debra Tice said she cannot reveal all that she has learned about her son’s situation without endangering him, but said she believes that he is not being held by antigovernment rebels or Islamic State militants. That leaves the government, or forces loyal to it.

She admits to being frustrated that her son’s plight has not received more attention from the American public, and she said she hopes the Newseum banner changes that.

“In France, when someone is missing, the family expects to hear from the president immediately, and a banner is put up,” she said. “I’ve wondered, where are the banners for Austin?”

She said the Obama administration has been helpful and collaborative since adopting a new hostage policy in 2015 and naming a special hostage envoy. Debra and Marc Tice met with President Obama in July, and he assured the parents that he is committed to their son’s safe return. She holds out hope that it will happen before Obama leaves office in January.

“Austin’s captors have to reach out and let us know what they expect,” she said. “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.”

One thing that the past four years have taught her, she said, is that many Americans are apathetic to the danger journalists sometimes face.

“I consider the banner at the Newseum to be a call to Americans to protect and respect journalists,” she said. “Austin’s captivity and the lack of passion about getting him home represents a complacency about journalists. Where do we hear the relentless voice calling for the release of this journalist? Where do we see the counter on TV that’s a piece of our daily bread? This journalist has spent 1,451 days in captivity. It’s appalling.”

Read more:

Austin Tice: ‘It’s nice and all, but please quit telling me to be safe’

Obama administration to stop threatening prosecution of hostage families for paying ransom


June 22, 2016
http://www.mcclatchydc.com/opinion/article85218092.html

4 hostage families make a plea: Bring home Austin Tice

An essay by Diane and John Foley, parents of James Foley; Ed and Paula Kassig, parents of Abdul-Rahman Peter Kassig; Carl, Marsha and Eric Mueller, parents and brother of Kayla Mueller; Shirley and Arthur Sotloff, parents of Steven Sotloff.

One year ago this week, following the torture and killing of two of our American journalists, James Foley and Steven Sotloff, and two of our American humanitarian aid workers, Peter Kassig and Kayla Mueller, President Barack Obama made a commitment to improve our government’s dismal record on the return of American hostages.

The president ordered a new government hostage policy, accompanied by a presidential policy directive, representing a much-needed effort to clarify and coordinate the government’s response to hostage-taking. The directive outlines the processes by which “the United States Government will work in a coordinated effort to leverage all instruments of national power to recover U.S. nationals held hostage abroad, unharmed.” 

Austin, a freelance journalist, Marine veteran and Georgetown law student, has been held hostage in Syria since August 2012. His safe return will satisfy a significant and necessary measure of the success of the new policy. Austin is the only American reporter being held hostage anywhere in the world, according to Reporters Without Borders. At the recent White House correspondents’ dinner, President Obama committed “to fight for the release of American journalists held against their will.” We were stunned and disheartened when the president chose not to refer by name to Austin, the only American news journalist being held against his will.

We, the family of Kayla Mueller, are haunted every day by the fact that we didn’t secure Kayla’s release, by the extraordinary hope she held during her terrifying captivity, by the horrific torture we now know she endured, by the missed opportunities and by the deadly silence that cost all the hostages their lives. Our hearts are broken and our hope is that our government will do all it is able to bring Austin and all hostages home safely. No additional U.S. citizens should have to endure the silence of our country, with that silence filled only by the terrorists holding them.

We, the family of the late journalist Steven Sotloff, remind President Obama of the following: You told us in person that if it were your daughters, you would do anything in your power to bring them home. We implore you: Bring Austin Tice home.

We, the parents of James Foley, say: Mr. President, after the horrific executions of our son James Foley and the other courageous Americans, you agreed with us that America could do better! We are counting on you to keep your promise by bringing Austin Tice home before you leave office!

We, the parents of Abdul-Rahman Peter Kassig, are devastated by the loss of our son, but the pain will be slightly lessened if his death helps bring Austin and others home. Jim, Steven, Peter and Kayla sacrificed all in their efforts to better the lives of others. As President Obama himself noted, they stood for the greatest of American ideals. One of the lessons we have learned is that the pain of the family and friends of the hostage increases tremendously as time passes without resolution. It requires mountain-moving faith to maintain hope as the crisis continues. With unwavering hope, Austin’s parents do not give up. The United States government must not give up. 

The Syrian conflict is horrific and tragic, its resolution complex and uncertain. Every diplomatic effort to address the conflict is fraught with uncertainty. Nevertheless, this uncertainty is not a reason to hesitate in leveraging all appropriate means to secure Austin’s safe release and return.

We are not asking the White House to put anyone in harm’s way, nor compromise national security. We are asking the president, fully within the responsibilities and obligations of his office, to put aside any personal or election year concern, to engage boldly and to use all appropriate means to bring Austin Tice safely home as soon as possible.

EDITORS’ NOTE

Austin Tice, now 34, was working as a freelance journalist for McClatchy and The Washington Post when he was taken captive in Syria in August 2012.

Four American hostage families have joined with Austin’s parents, Marc and Debra Tice of Houston, on the anniversary of President Barack Obama’s hostage policy directive to make an appeal to the president. Obama’s directive clarified that the government “may itself communicate with hostage-takers, their intermediaries, interested governments and local communities to attempt to secure the safe recovery of the hostage.”


Read more here: http://www.mcclatchydc.com/opinion/article85218092.html#storylink=cpy

Read more here: http://www.mcclatchydc.com/opinion/article85218092.html#storylink=cpy

Read more here: http://www.mcclatchydc.com/opinion/article85218092.html#storylink=cpy

April 19, 2016

    Georgetown Students Rally at White House for Austin Tice

    November 25, 2015

    Thank you to Conor McEvily, for this article which articulates so much about Austin's character, and why we miss him even more keenly when our family gathers for special occasions.

    Houston Chronicle

    McEvily: On Thanksgiving, remembering Austin Tice

    By Conor McEvily

    November 25, 2015 Updated: November 25, 2015 4:33pm

     

    ·          

    I met Austin Tice - the American journalist and Houston native who went missing in Syria in 2012 - once, seven years ago, when both of us were in our first year at Georgetown Law. The integrity of the memory is admittedly dubious, compromised, I suspect, by time and intervening events. But the fact of the memory remains, along with a few details, small but still significant.

    A classroom doorway frames the recollection. And outside it, Austin and a couple of first years are wrangling over some arcane legal matter. I approach the scene on my way to class, fully intent on breezing by. These extracurricular debates are painful spectacles, usually carried on in the service of something less noble than earnest intellectual exchange. But for reasons lost on me now, I linger - long enough to feel compelled to introduce myself, and long enough for Austin's character to leave an impression.

    There's an exuberance to him, a brash expansiveness, that's both physical (broad shoulders, chest and grin) and temperamental. He channels his vitality into a commanding baritone, which you can feel reverberate at the base of your skull, especially when he laughs (which he does, at least once as I'm standing there).

    The debate proceeds, capturing my attention for another minute or so before it becomes clear that no one's really listening to each other. The group disperses. I go to class (presumably). But what I remember most vividly, what's stubbornly stuck with me for the last seven years, is that whatever was being discussed, Austin really cared about it. At the time, I probably mistook his intensity for bombast or pedantry or just plain goofiness. (A cynical assumption, maybe, but maybe a warranted one, too, had it been most any other classmate.) But there was something else at work there, too; something I perceived then, maybe only subliminally, but which seems unmistakable to me now when I resurrect our brief meeting and recall the things that have happened since - Austin's courage.

    A 'pioneering spirit'

    This Thanksgiving marks the fourth since Austin disappeared - a grim and maddening milestone for those close to him, but maybe no more maddening than the many others that have preceded it: weddings, anniversaries, birthdays, baptisms, the smaller, unremitting mysteries that compose the day-to-day. And yet of all days, Thanksgiving seems as apt as any to commemorate Austin's absence. The holiday's official proclamation, in the middle of a civil war, was an expression of gratitude and grace during a time of profound national grief, and the day's inseparable association with the idea of home intensifies the anxiety we feel for those who are away.

    What little we know of Austin's capture has been faithfully chronicled by a host of news outlets, this one included. Most recently, in an article for Texas Monthly, Sonia Smith carefully narrates his abrupt transformation from law student to freelancing war reporter who was working his way toward something of a modern-day heart of darkness before he suddenly disappeared. The latest intelligence seems to indicate that Austin is being held by an entity or ally of the Assad regime. But no one seems to know where he is, or what his captors want.

    What animates Smith's article is Austin's tenacity and zeal - a "pioneering spirit," he called it, which he sought to harness and aim at something undeniably important: documenting, with words and photos, a people struggling to breathe free. Of the Syrian people, he wrote before his capture: "[t]hey live with greater passion and dream with greater ambition because they are not afraid of death," adding a few lines later, "neither am I." And yet Smith is frank in her assessment of Austin's inexperience and lack of training. Confederates and acquaintances in the region openly worried about Austin's brass and the risks he took in a cruel and unforgiving place.

    Vigilance and compassion

    That there was an element of folly to Austin's reportorial campaign, that it might've even been misbegotten is, to my mind, as likely as it is unimportant. What is important is what he sought to do in Syria, and what he actually achieved. "Freedom for Austin Tice," read one protester's sign in Syria shortly after he had vanished, "who lighted Syria with his lens."

    Behind Austin's lens was his spirit. And beyond Austin's spirit - his idealism, his verve, his desire for self-fulfillment, all of which gave urgency to his dangerous task - beyond even his expression of courage itself, lay two fundamental virtues that he physically embodied, and for which his body has been physically detained: vigilance and compassion.

    Of the first, the evil that Austin opposed was as much oblivion as it was oppression. His work, revelatory in nature, served as a potent antidote to blindness, diversion and obscurity, and it's important that we remain vigilant ourselves so that Austin does not succumb to these ills, as well. To bring him home will require, in addition to resolve, our sustained attention.

    As for the second virtue, compassion, it would seem to merit particular consideration as our country engages in the trying, at times undignifying, debate about what role we're to play in giving refuge to a people fleeing war. We may not all be capable of summoning the courage Austin showed when he traveled abroad to help the people of Syria, but surely we can reflect his compassion when the war-weary Syrians come to us.

    Remember his name

    Having never been to war, or even near one, there is much about it I do not know. But of the one in Syria, I know this: Somewhere, in a place that's as close to hell on Earth as any I can think of, is an American journalist who, in age, provenance and education, is not that dissimilar from me. I know that he is brave, that he risked his life to tell the stories of a people devastated by war and that he has a family here in Houston that is suffering the absence of their first-born son. He was once a classmate of mine, this man, and I know he has a face and a body and a name.

    Maybe that's the least we can do then, on Thanksgiving of all days. Remember his name. Keep it present and holy and alive in our minds while we wait for him to come home. And bear with it the names of the others who likewise strove to illuminate the dark. The names of the dead - journalists Marie Colvin, James Foley, Steven Sotloff - and the living: Austin Tice. Austin Tice.

     

    McEvily is a Houston attorney. Thanksgiving Day will mark 1,200 days since Austin Tice's first day of silence. For more information on the #FreeAustinTice campaign launched by Reporters Without Borders, visit freeaustintice.rsf.org


                                                            NE Loop 610 @ McCarty Rd, Houston

    October, 2015


    The Road to Damascus

    In 2012 Houston native Austin Tice heeded a calling to become a journalist in war-ravaged Syria. His photographs, stories, and tweets shed new light on the conflict—until one day they stopped.

    October 2015 By 

    Before he ever considered traveling to Syria, before he saw his byline in the Washington Post, and before he made worldwide news, Austin Tice had a revelation in the desert. At 29, he had insatiable curiosity and a surfeit of charisma, and though he generally wasn’t one to entertain visions, he’d been thinking a lot about his future. It was 2011, and he was three months into his deployment at Camp Leatherneck, in southern Afghanistan, with his fellow Marines. Despite being in a war zone, he was restless. The Arab Spring, the wave of democratic uprisings sweeping through Tunisia, Egypt, and Libya, had been making headlines; the Islamic world was changing fast, and he felt desperately removed from the action. “So often I feel like I was born in the wrong age, or at least on the wrong continent,” he wrote on Facebook that July. But then, as he spent his downtime between missions gazing at photos of protesters in the streets of the Libyan capital and reading tweets about rebels clashing with forces loyal to Colonel Muammar Gaddafi, an idea came to him.

    Excitedly, he hurried to his commander’s office and burst in. He knew what he was going to do, he announced: become a war photographer. The commander, Lieutenant Colonel Brian Bruggeman, looked at him cockeyed. Bruggeman had talked often with Austin during their deployment, and though Bruggeman had come to enjoy his big ideas, this was unusual even for him. “Why would you want to do that?” Bruggeman said. Austin’s eyes widened. “Why wouldn’t you? Who wouldn’t want to do that?”

    Had Bruggeman known Austin before their deployment, he might have seen the moment coming. Growing up in Westbury, in southwest Houston, as the oldest of seven, Austin had always had a passionate streak. His mother, Debra, homeschooled her children in a house where NPR, newspapers, and the Bible stood in for television—which the family sold at a garage sale in 1988—and weekends were filled with canoeing and camping. One morning, when he was a first grader, Austin came downstairs to find that his assignments for the day weren’t ready. He turned to his mother and said, “ ‘You don’t care about my future. You don’t care about my education. I have no promise here,’ ” Debra recalled. “Everything was always so intense and urgent and relevant with him. He was like that from birth.”

    His intensity led to academic success. A National Merit finalist and an Eagle Scout, Austin enrolled in the University of Houston’s Honors College just before his sixteenth birthday. Even then he’d felt the pull of the larger world. During his admissions interview, when asked what he wanted to do with his life, he replied, “Well, I really want to be a foreign correspondent for NPR.” (Jodie Koszegi, the admissions counselor, was impressed. “He knew his own mind,” she told me.) Soon he’d landed a gig writing for the campus paper, the Daily Cougar, and two years later, in the fall of 1999, he transferred to Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service. By the time he graduated, in 2002, he had grown into his lanky frame and earned a reputation for his direct, if not always gracious, manner. One college friend explained, “He’s the kind of person who really has a vision of his place in the world and who considers the question, ‘What can I do that will be really important?’ ”

    Austin Tice, Eagle ScoutAustin as an Eagle Scout.

    PHOTOGRAPH COURTESY OF THE TICE FAMILY

    Like so many young idealists, Austin ended up in law school, but, as would frequently be the case in his life, he’d soon grown restless. After one semester of legal studies at Georgetown, he signed up for the Marine Corps, and in 2005 he was commissioned as a second lieutenant. “I felt there was this sort of disconnect between the world I was living in, where I went to class every day and parties, and then what I would read in the paper,” he would later say in an interview, archived at the Library of Congress. After two deployments, he restarted his first year of law school in 2008, but he found that the discipline and sense of mission he’d acquired in the military made him impatient with his younger, flip-flop-wearing classmates. In early 2011 he volunteered for another deployment as a reservist.

    This was how he’d ended up in Afghanistan. No sooner had he arrived, however, than he began wrestling with the U.S. military’s role and tactics in the Middle East. “Heading out soon on a horribly conceived mission,” he wrote once on Twitter. “Hopefully will be forgotten like most dumb missions are; otherwise, see you on CNN.” His commander took his frustrations in stride. “He would drive conversations with questions that were not typical of conversations I was having with anyone, regardless of rank,” Bruggeman said. “He was very curious as to the purpose of our involvement. Austin has a refined sense of justice.” When, two weeks after announcing his new calling, Austin lugged a heavy, expensive Nikon camera that he’d just purchased into Bruggeman’s office, the commander was impressed. “It is not uncommon for someone to have a mid-deployment epiphany,” he said. “A lot of times people think, ‘Hey, I’m going to get out and go to school.’ This was a bit more of a radical epiphany. Not many people follow through on their radical mid-deployment epiphanies, but he did.”

    The same day he bought his camera—August 11, his thirtieth birthday—Austin also purchased a plane ticket to Cairo for the following March. His deployment would end in December, and though he planned to return to law school for the spring semester, his main focus was to prepare for life as a foreign journalist. As a trial run, he intended to spend his spring break documenting the aftermath of the Egyptian revolution. Scanning daily headlines on his computer, he weighed where he might commit himself after that.

    He briefly considered Libya, but Gaddafi fell in October, and as the news cycle moved on, Austin’s attention shifted to Syria. The conflict there, which had begun in March 2011 as a peaceful protest movement against the regime of President Bashar al-Assad, had turned increasingly violent as the government cracked down on protesters. Now the Free Syrian Army—a ragtag association of mostly Sunni defectors from the military—was fighting to depose the better-equipped Assad regime, which is composed largely of Ala­wites, a Shiite minority. As the violence worsened, the government banned foreign news organizations and often refused to issue visas to journalists, forcing them to either embed with the regime or illegally cross the Turkish or Lebanese borders.

    Those who did sneak into the country exposed themselves to tremendous risk. Syria was quickly becoming the most dangerous place in the world—a “black hole,” as some would later call it—for journalists. (Since the start of the Syrian uprising, some 95 journalists have been killed there, and at least 12 are currently imprisoned, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists.) In February 2012 Marie Colvin, a veteran reporter for London’s Sunday Times, was killed by rocket fire in the city of Homs after slipping across the border. Following Colvin’s death, news agencies began pulling back their personnel.

    With few journalists on the ground, it was growing increasingly difficult to know what exactly was happening in Syria. Reading the news, Austin was irritated whenever he saw that journalists “could not confirm” details because a news organization didn’t have a reporter in country. The shroud of silence over the conflict—which Colvin herself had described as the worst she’d ever seen—only helped crystallize Austin’s sense of mission.

    After returning to Washington, D.C., in January 2012, Austin used his savings to buy camera lenses and other gear and began studying maps of Syria and teaching himself rudimentary Arabic; on Fridays, he audited an introductory photography class at Georgetown. “Time to work hard, be dull, and prepare for the next great adventure. In a movie, this part would be a montage,” he tweeted. At a panel discussion on Syria at George Mason University in February, Austin met Sasha Ghosh-Siminoff, then the head of the Syrian Emergency Task Force, a nonprofit supporting the Syrian revolution. “He made it very clear that he was going whether I helped him or not, which was the attitude of many freelancers at the time,” Ghosh-Siminoff said. “I felt like I had some responsibility to help him meet the right people so it wouldn’t be a complete disaster.” Ghosh-Siminoff was concerned that Austin didn’t speak Arabic and feared for his safety but ultimately agreed to connect Austin with some activists he knew in the region. “From the beginning, he said he wanted to get to Damascus. No journalist had done what he was planning to do, this trek from top to bottom.”

    In March, Austin traveled to Egypt with his sister Meagan and two friends, marveling at the pyramids, enjoying the beaches of Sharm el-Sheikh, and photographing a protest in Tahrir Square. This taste of photojournalism confirmed what he’d known all along: he was meant to spend the upcoming summer in Syria. Late one night in Cairo, he called his parents to inform them of his plan. “I’m not going to have any discussion about this,” he told his mother. Debra knew that her son wouldn’t be persuaded otherwise. “There was no talking him out of it. So we just let the butterflies fly and asked, ‘How do we support you?’ ”

    On May 8 Austin packed for southern Turkey. He would fly to the city of Gaziantep, take a bus to the city of Antakya, and from there figure out how to enter nearby Syria. He squeezed some $10,000 worth of gear—including his camera, lenses, a portable satellite Internet terminal, a small solar panel, and a Kindle—into several green camera bags and a backpack. To keep himself entertained over multiple flights and layovers, he also brought along Dispatches, Michael Herr’s book about his time as a war correspondent in Vietnam. Before boarding his first flight, Austin pulled out his phone. “This is either gonna be wildly successful or a complete disaster,” he tweeted. “Here goes nothing.”

    Journalist Austin TiceAustin reporting in Al Tal.

    PHOTOGRAPH COURTESY OF CBS

    The Syria that Austin entered is not the Syria of today. The reports emanating out of the country have been bleak: seared into our minds are the images of carnage from the Assad regime’s barrel bombs and chemical weapons (more than 220,000 Syrians have died in the conflict so far), of 3.9 million refugees fleeing the country, and of the horrors perpetrated by the self-proclaimed Islamic State, including the gruesome beheadings of foreign journalists like James Foley and aid workers like Peter Kassig. But when Austin first landed on its border, a year and two months after the revolt started, Syria had not yet descended into such chaos. It was already one of the most dangerous countries in the world, but the general assumption was that its government, like Egypt’s and Libya’s and Tunisia’s before it, would soon topple in the face of a united popular uprising. Opposition groups had not yet splintered, U.S. involvement still appeared to be a possibility, and the extremist groups who would later give rise to ISIS were insignificant.

    But the violence was escalating. In the months before Austin arrived, Assad had increasingly been clamping down with force on those who opposed him. A UN cease-fire in April 2012 was widely disregarded. As Western powers stood by, unwilling to take a side, the pace of the conflict began to quicken. For the Turkish city of Antakya, this suddenly meant a new identity. With a population of 250,000, Antakya is the capital of Hatay Province, a sliver of land sandwiched between Syria, which controlled the area until the late thirties, and the Mediterranean Sea. It had once been the third-largest city in the Roman Empire and, as the biblical city of Antioch, was an early center of Christianity but had since faded to a provincial backwater. Now Antakya’s geography was turning it into a Casablanca of the Syrian war, a safe haven for refugees, injured fighters, spies, arms dealers, and diplomats, who rented apartments and hotel rooms in the city and mingled at the many outdoor cafes and kebab stands.

    Antakya lies in a valley surrounded by mountains and bisected by the Orontes River, tamed into a concrete channel. On a cloudy afternoon, Austin rode the bus in from Gaziantep, passing green rolling hills covered with olive groves and finding the scenery “reminiscent of Southern California.” In the city, he met with a contact provided by Ghosh-Siminoff: Mohammed Issa, a jovial, slightly chubby lawyer and activist from the Damascus suburbs who had fled Syria in July 2011 after being arrested and imprisoned for 57 days. They had tea at a cheap restaurant in Antakya’s old city, and when Austin mentioned he was on a tight budget, Issa invited the American to stay with him and his friends in a second-floor apartment in a mustard-yellow building on Dumlupinar Street. A Syrian refugee named Jameel Saib had found the apartment in early 2012, and it had become something of a way station for displaced Syrian activists, revolutionaries, and foreign fighters of various persuasions on their way to take up arms across the border.

    The men slept on soft pallets covered in mismatched floral fabric, which they stacked on top of the cabinets when not in use. Austin began attending the rebels’ organizational meetings, making out what he could in his self-described “crummy Arabic”; having political conversations with Syrian refugees over coffee; and introducing his new Muslim friends to the musical stylings of Taylor Swift. He bonded with Issa over their legal backgrounds. “He was so social. We got to be such good friends that we forgot he was a journalist,” said Issa, who now works as a producer for Al Jazeera in Gaziantep.

    In the two weeks he spent at the apartment, in fact, Austin made quick inroads. “I could make ten documentaries about the people who have come and gone from this house,” Saib said while sipping hot tea one day this March, sitting cross-legged on a daybed in the apartment’s light-filled front room. He estimates that hundreds of people have passed through his home, from Western journalists to jihadist fighters. But Austin stood out from the others because he seemed sincerely interested in getting to know everyone. “One time we stayed up all night just talking,” Saib said. The apartment had been so crowded with guests that there was no room to sleep. “So we went to the park and stayed there until seven a.m.” The two sat under the palm trees and cedars and discussed whether happiness was found in material or spiritual things.

    In addition to being a safe place for refugees and fighters, Antakya had become a staging point for journalists planning to cross into Syria—in particular freelancers who had cut their teeth in Tahrir Square and Tripoli and were eager for a Syria dateline. Like Austin, many of these freelancers were young, inexperienced, and willing to take enormous personal risks, operating without insurance, translators, or expense accounts. Theo Padnos, James Foley, and Steven Sotloff, who would all later be kidnapped in Syria, spent time in Antakya. But none, perhaps, were looking to go as far into Syria, or stay inside as long, as Austin.

    Soon he got the break he’d been wanting: another journalist connected him with Mahmoud Sheikh el-Zour, a sprightly 52-year-old Syrian who agreed to take him into Syria and help set up interviews and translate, a role that foreign correspondents commonly refer to as a fixer. El-Zour had been imprisoned for almost two years in the eighties during the regime of Hafez al-Assad, Bashar’s father, and later received asylum in the U.S., but he had left his life in Atlanta and his job selling heavy equipment and returned to the region to join the Free Syrian Army. When el-Zour agreed to become his fixer, Austin could barely contain his excitement. “I am embedded with #FSA,” he tweeted. “Newsworthy stuff going on daily. If someone wanted to hire me that would be great. Student loans don’t pay themselves.”

    A few days later, on May 23, Austin found himself crouching in red dirt among the dry, nodding plumeless thistles as the afternoon sun dipped in the sky. Next to him, el-Zour was whispering into his walkie-talkie to rebels on the other side of the barbed-wire-and-cement fence that marked the Syrian border. When the time was right, they shimmied under the fence, and a group of rebels picked them up. They took back roads to skirt Syrian army checkpoints, until they reached their destination, Khan Shaykhun, a town some 75 miles away, in the northwest corner of the country. Austin had made it. Now he would slowly start working his way toward Damascus, about 160 miles south, recording what he saw.

    For the first two weeks, he stayed in the home of Ziad Abo al-Majd, an activist in a nearby village, sleeping in an underground room in case of shelling. He would share a breakfast of cheese, olives, and bread with his host before heading out for the day, accompanying fighters to neighboring towns to document everything from Friday prayers to field hospital operations to funerals. Austin’s nights were usually reserved for uploading photos and writing about what he’d seen that day. “He was the first foreigner I ever met,” al-Majd, who is now the head of the management council of the revolution in Idlib Province, told me over Skype. “He was like one of us. . . . He was cool, kind, and so serious about his work.”

    That June, July, and August would be the deadliest months the war had seen. For Austin, this made for perfect timing, but friends back in Antakya grew concerned. They had cautioned him not to speak about his time with the Marines while in Syria—lest he get crosswise with anyone about American foreign policy—but his general openness still worried them. “He was too brave, and I told him that many times,” Issa said. “He is clever, but he trusts his cleverness too much. Because of this, he met a lot of people and trusted them quickly and went with them many places in Syria. As a Syrian, I can’t trust any group.” Saib agreed. “He was adventurous and reckless,” he said. “And overconfident. It’s a problem in war zones to be too confident.”

    If Austin felt any fear himself, it was suppressed by an immediate vindication of purpose. Within a week of crossing into Syria, he’d sold his first pictures, to McClatchy, which owns 29 papers in the U.S., including the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. Though his initial idea was to work only as a photojournalist, once he was on the ground, he found that he wanted to also write about what he was seeing. He reached out to Mark Seibel, McClatchy’s Washington, D.C.–based chief of correspondents, who was impressed by his writing. On June 1, McClatchy published his first story: 736 words about a meeting he’d observed between UN monitors and rebels in Latamneh, six miles south of Khan Shaykhun.

    And with that, Austin, whose only real reporting experience had been covering campus issues for the Daily Cougar, was now a foreign correspondent.

    When it comes to epiphanies, there is perhaps no greater touchstone than the story of the Apostle Paul, whose own awakening—in present-day Syria, and on the way to Damascus, no less—imbued him with singular purpose and a desire to change the world. Perhaps it is no accident, then, that Austin, after awakening to his calling as a war photographer, would follow the same path. “I really think that the next few years of my life are going to [be] a turning point, like I’m standing on the cusp of really coming into myself,” he’d written on Facebook in the months before reaching Syria. Reporting what he witnessed on his way to Damascus, he felt sure, would open the world’s eyes to the atrocities taking place before him.

    He was not, however, as prepared for how the journey would open his own eyes to danger and suffering. In Kafr Zita, a town of 17,000 four miles south of Khan Shaykhun, Austin shadowed the rebels during a four-day battle with the regime. They were a disorganized and motley bunch, dressed in tracksuits and jeans and wielding machine guns, Molotov cocktails, and RPGs against the regime’s Russian tanks and helicopters. At one point during the battle, a helicopter fired on a pickup truck that Austin was riding in, and he got separated from el-Zour for four hours. A few days later, the Syrian army set fire to houses in town, leaving behind smoldering piles of rubble. When Austin returned to survey the destruction, he ducked into one of the scorched homes to take pictures and found himself standing in charred human remains. Later that day he photographed some chilling graffiti, spray-painted in Arabic on a stone wall near an abandoned Syrian army checkpoint: “Don’t worry, Bashar, you have a military that will drink blood.”

    The experience left him rattled. “Been in Syria for 11 days and seen combat [twice]. It’s terrifying. I can’t comprehend the bravery of the [people] who have endured it for 14 months,” he wrote on Twitter. He was gutted by the suffering he saw along the way. “Saw a girl who’d been hit in the head by a tank round. 3 other kids died in the attack. She has brain damage and can’t walk. I broke down,” he tweeted. The plight of kids in the war zone weighed heavily on him. “I have more pictures of beautiful Syrian kids than I could ever possibly use. It breaks my heart to see what is happening to them. No kid should even have to know that things like this happen in the world, much less be forced to live and sometimes die this way,” he wrote in a caption on Flickr.

    Austin’s searing coverage helped fill the void of news about the war, and as he started to make a name for himself, he began pitching stories to editors at some of the largest U.S. media outlets. The first of his three Washington Post stories—a profile of “the Idlib boys,” as Austin called them, the FSA battalion operating in the northern province by the same name—ran on June 20, less than a month after he entered Syria. But the piece he seemed proudest of was a story for McClatchy that pondered whether certain elements of Assad’s forces might be intentionally underperforming. His time as a Marine had given him a keen understanding of military tactics. “He could tell you by the angles at which these helicopters were trying to chase rebel convoys that they were purposefully trying to miss,” one journalist told me. “That was a great insight because it illustrates that there are elements in the Assad military—Sunni pilots—that are not trying to prosecute this war and are sympathizing with the opposition.” As he inched closer to Damascus, Austin—with an unkempt beard matching his brown hair and eyes—appeared on CNN and CBS and gave radio interviews to the BBC and NPR.

    By this time, he was traveling with another journalist. In Kafr Zita, less than two weeks into his time in Syria, Austin had met David Enders, a Beirut-based correspondent for McClatchy who had entered the country a few days prior from southern Turkey. They decided to stick together, traveling over the next couple of weeks from the top of Hama Province, in northwest Syria, down to northern Homs Province, in the center of the country, collaborating on several stories and spending considerable downtime waiting in safe houses.

    Enders, who has a decade of experience covering wars in the Middle East, found Austin to be “very driven and very principled and very brave” but tried to impress upon him some safety tips. “He wasn’t trained for some of the delicacies of the situation. He was filing [stories] from the places he was, he was tweeting from the places he was. I told him explicitly that it was absurd to think that the government wasn’t monitoring those things and explained to him that I never datelined anything or published anything until I had been gone from a place for two days,” he recalled. “These are things that you do in a situation where the government has shown a willingness to target journalists.” Filing via satellite phone is risky too, as the regime can track and triangulate the signal. (This is widely acknowledged to be how the government targeted Marie Colvin.)

    Most journalists who were going into Syria at the time would cross the border from Lebanon or Turkey, spend a few days inside, and head back to safety. That included Enders. At the end of June, Enders told Austin he was returning to the Lebanese border and implored Austin to come with him. But Austin wanted to continue south, to the city of Homs, which had been embroiled in a grinding, bloody siege for thirteen months. “My understanding of getting into Homs at that time, if you managed it, meant a slog through a two-mile sewer pipe, and if you got caught, you had nowhere to run,” Enders said. “I had advised him strongly not to continue on to Homs and to return to the border with me, but he wasn’t interested. He was intent on going to Damascus.”

    This choice to continue south also meant Austin had to part ways with el-Zour, who wanted to stay and fight with the Idlib battalion and eventually return to Turkey, and so he reluctantly passed Austin off to another band of rebels headed south. El-Zour called Saib back in Antakya to express his frustration. “Austin wants to go to Damascus, and I can’t go with him now. I feel afraid for him, but I do not have the ability to make him stay with me,” Saib recounted el-Zour saying. (El-Zour, reached inside Syria, declined to comment for this story.)

    Despite his limited grasp of Arabic, Austin quickly and implicitly trusted the rebels he met. “At the time, other journalists did go battalion hopping,” Ghosh-Siminoff explained. “There was sort of a system of trust and faith, by referral from whatever FSA group you were with. It kind of made sense because you felt like everyone was fighting for the right reasons. You weren’t worried about rebels kidnapping or killing you, because the rebels needed the media attention, needed the media on their side.” (The landscape is different now. There are about 1,200 militias operating in Syria today, says Joshua Landis, the director of the Center for Middle East Studies at the University of Oklahoma, citing CIA figures. “Many militias were still trying to be nice to Americans in the early stages of the civil war because they hoped they would get arms and help and money from the Americans. Today, Americans are seen as more useful for hostage money,” he told me.)

    Though Austin was reaching places seen by few other Western journalists, he was weary of the many delays and the waiting around that travel in Syria required. After a few days idling in safe houses on the outskirts of Homs, Austin gave up and pushed farther south. “I have wasted a lot of time outside Homs, ultimately can’t get in. Headed toward Damascus instead,” he wrote Ghosh-Siminoff on July 1. “Things are happening there, there’s clearly an army offensive going on.” Four days later, he arrived in Yabroud, a city in the Qalamun Mountains some 45 miles north of Damascus that was largely untouched by shelling. “If didn’t know otherwise you’d never think there was a revolution here. Muslims & Christians intermingled. Peaceful,” he wrote on Twitter. “I feel like I’m on vacation. NO SHELLS!!” He shaved his scraggly beard to acclimate to the more secular environment and declared Yabroud to be an “oasis of calm” in a front-page Post piece. Next he moved on to Al Tal, six miles from downtown Damascus, where he watched rebels and government troops battle for control of two secret police buildings, with the FSA ultimately prevailing. “It was quite a scene when they struck the government flag on the roof and raised the Free Syrian Army flag. There was quite a bit of celebration in the streets,” he told Scott Pelley on the CBS Evening News.

    In the middle of the civil war, he didn’t let go of home. While holed up in a basement in Al Tal during one long bombardment, he penned a letter to a neighborhood association in Houston to support a planned housing development for single mothers. (“Dear Ma’ams and Sirs, I write to express my disappointment in my hometown’s apparent opposition to the extension of charitable aid to the most vulnerable in our community,” the letter begins.) When talking with his parents, Austin tended to shield Debra from the day-to-day realities of the dangers he faced, though he was a bit more candid with his father, Marc. One day when Austin was in Al Tal, Debra decided to see if his satellite phone was working.

    “Oh, hey, Mom!” he said when he picked up. Other voices chattered in the background.

    “What are you doing?” Debra asked.

    “The connection might not be too good because we’re sheltering in a stairwell,” he said, before adding, “Actually, I gotta go. We’re running now. Love you, Mom. Talk to you later.”

    After that, Debra decided never to call his satellite phone again. “Okay, well, his phone works,” she thought to herself, “but that was too much information.”

    While he didn’t reveal fear to his parents, he was more forthcoming with his friends. One evening, Austin confessed to Ghosh-Siminoff over Google Chat, “I’m having a good time, but I would be lying if I said it wasn’t also terrifying.”

    “They give you a flak jacket?” Ghosh-Siminoff asked. Austin replied, “I got offered one but turned it down. Meh.”

    Austin’s exploits and his desire to document the war even at great personal risk inspired a blend of awe and worry among his friends back home. Their concerns prompted him to write a note on Facebook, later published on the Post website, that has since become something of a manifesto.

    “People keep telling me to be safe (as if that’s an option), keep asking me why I’m doing this crazy thing, keep asking what’s wrong with me for coming here. So listen,” he wrote. “Our granddads stormed Normandy and Iwo Jima and defeated global fascism. Neil Armstrong flew to the Moon in a glorified trash can, doing math on a clipboard as he went. Before there were roads, the Pioneers put one foot in front of the other until they walked across the entire continent. Then a bunch of them went down to fight and die in Texas ’cause they thought it was the right thing to do. Sometime between when our granddads licked the Nazis and when we started putting warnings on our coffee cups about the temperature of our beverage, America lost that pioneering spirit. We became a fat, weak, complacent, coddled, unambitious and cowardly nation. . . . So that’s why I came here to Syria, and it’s why I like being here now, right now, right in the middle of a brutal and still uncertain civil war. Every person in this country fighting for their freedom wakes up every day and goes to sleep every night with the knowledge that death could visit them at any moment. They accept that reality as the price of freedom. . . . They’re alive in a way that almost no Americans today even know how to be. They live with greater passion and dream with greater ambition because they are not afraid of death. Neither were the Pioneers. Neither were our granddads. Neither was Neil Armstrong. And neither am I.”

    Austin’s summer had been full of danger, but his ultimate goal—trying to sneak into Damascus—would be his most daring move yet. On July 30, after days of trying, Austin finally persuaded a group of FSA rebels to smuggle him into the capital.

    A truck ferried him through the Damascus suburbs, then he switched to a car, which soon stopped ahead of a government checkpoint. Austin slid out of the backseat and onto the pavement. As the car drove off, a guide led him into a stream of pedestrians walking toward the checkpoint. Austin was draped in an abaya, a long black gown, and his face was covered by a niqab, a full-face veil. Through a slit he could see soldiers with Kalashnikovs milling about, periodically searching cars and eyeing ID cards. He felt conspicuous in the disguise, which left his feet exposed and stretched awkwardly across his muscular shoulders—sculpted by years of swimming in childhood and rowing crew in college—giving the impression of a hulking woman. Still, odd as it was, wearing the outfit seemed better than approaching a checkpoint as himself, a journalist in the country illegally. If discovered by Assad’s soldiers, he could be detained in one of the regime’s many prisons, or worse.

    Austin followed his guide at a deliberate pace, trying not to rouse suspicion. He kept his eyes trained on the ground. All he could do was keep moving and pray he wouldn’t be noticed. It was in the upper 90’s and humid, and the black fabric—which retained the perfumed scent of the last person to wear it—was oppressive in the afternoon heat. They were nearly past the checkpoint when, from twenty feet behind them, one of the soldiers bellowed, “Stop!” They didn’t look back. His guide sped up, so Austin did too. Then they heard the crack of gunfire. At this, they both bolted down the street. Bullets pinged the wall beside them.

    They ducked into an alleyway and kept running, past women and children gawking from doorways, until they reached a busy intersection and were reunited with their car, which had made it through the checkpoint. The car soon stopped again, this time to pick up the architect of this plan, a rebel who went by the nom de guerre Abu Mohammad. He looked at Austin’s get-up. “Take that thing off,” he said. “It does more harm than good.” As Austin would recount the next day in a piece for McClatchy about sneaking into the city, he received a cursory tour of central Damascus in the car, passing the headquarters of the Mukhabarat, the feared secret police; circling roundabouts; and viewing the charred husk of a bombed-out building. Around sundown, the car pulled up at their destination, an FSA safe house, where Austin shared an Iftar meal with fighters who were breaking their fast on the eleventh day of Ramadan. As they ate, one of the men turned to Austin. “Welcome to Damascus,” he said.

    Austin would spend most of the next two weeks in Daraya, a Sunni suburb on the southwestern outskirts of the capital, famous for the handmade wooden furniture that craftsmen churn out in their small workshops. He settled in with a group of rebels, staying in a two-story marble villa that served as the battalion’s media center. His days were divided between covering demonstrations, observing the battalion’s weapons and tactics training, and helping out with a street cleanup after the regime cut public services to the area. There were also moments of levity, playing Counter-Strike with his hosts and ringing in his thirty-first birthday with a pool party complete with whiskey and a Taylor Swift sound track.

    Though embedded with the rebels, Austin did what he could to present a balanced view of the war. On August 3, McClatchy had run his piece on alleged executions and human rights abuses perpetrated by the rebels.

    Six days later he took a two-day trip to Jdei­det Artouz, a nearby suburb, to film a TV spot on a government massacre that left fifty dead. His guide, a young activist and Palestinian refugee who goes by the pseudonym Adam Boudy, helped translate as Austin interviewed family members of victims of the raid and was struck by his charisma. “Everyone wanted to talk to him. He was very magnetic, and he was able to get what he needed as a journalist. His charisma gave him the keys to the people,” Boudy said.

    Back in Daraya, Austin’s Internet access was spotty over the next few days. He feared the government was jamming it, and he was growing anxious about his safety. “He was concerned he had been inside too long and that his presence was becoming a known quantity by the regime,” Ghosh-Siminoff said.

    Austin often referred to his time in Syria as his “crazy summer vacation,” but by mid-August he was ready for a break. He prepared to leave Damascus and head to the Lebanese border by car, for a few weeks of relaxation in Beirut, where he planned to meet a friend. But he never arrived. Austin’s stream of tweets, Google Chats, emails, and texts suddenly stopped, and messages to him went unreturned. His editors determined that the last time his satellite phone transmitted was August 13. After two months and 21 days in Syria, Austin Tice had vanished.

    On August 17, Debra Tice was wrapping up a six-day canoe trip on the Boundary Waters, in the upper reaches of Minnesota. She had been happy to be back in the place where, seventeen years before, she had helped chaperone a Boy Scout canoe trip for Austin’s fourteenth birthday. Soon after pulling her boat out of the water, she called to check in with her husband in Houston.

    “I don’t have any good news, and I have more bad news than you’re expecting,” Marc Tice told her, “so decide how you want to hear it.”

    Her husband typically wasn’t cryptic, so this unsettled her. She walked out to the dock, where she could be alone. It was there, surrounded by pine trees and the sound of gently lapping water, that she heard the news that her firstborn son was missing.

    All week Marc had been trying to rationalize the radio silence from Austin. They had last emailed at 6:40 a.m. Houston time on August 13, the middle of the afternoon in Damascus. Austin had planned to leave for Beirut the next morning, so a certain degree of disconnectedness was to be expected. But after four days without any form of communication, Marc broke down and contacted Mark Seibel at McClatchy.

    Seibel said he hadn’t heard from Austin either. He was concerned and so were editors at the Post.

    Later that afternoon, a State Department official called Marc in Houston. “They uttered that classic line, ‘Are you sitting down?’ But, of course, by then, I knew what they were calling about,” he recounted.

    Austin Tice's parents, Marc and DebraMarc and Debra Tice, at their home, in Houston.

    PHOTOGRAPH BY BILL SALLANS

    Soon the Tices found themselves in Washington for meetings at the FBI and the State Department. McClatchy went public with the news on August 23, reporting that Austin “has been incommunicado for more than a week.” Journalists in Antakya and Beirut and inside Syria mobilized. The Liwan Hotel, built in the twenties as a mansion for the first president of Syria and recently reborn as a boutique hotel, became the unofficial headquarters in Antakya. Reporters posted up in the hotel’s courtyard restaurant or darkened bar and worked their contacts, trying to piece together the murky circumstances surrounding Austin’s disappearance. (Among the journalists at the Liwan Hotel was James Foley, who had spent a few days with Austin outside Homs and who would be kidnapped one hundred days after Austin, in Idlib Province.)

    Their task, already a thankless one, was further complicated when forces loyal to President Assad, using tanks and engaging in house-to-house searches, began assaulting the Daraya suburb, where Austin had been staying, a week after his disappearance. More than four hundred people were killed, making it the bloodiest massacre of the Syrian conflict up to that point. Journalists in the region eventually heard several stories about Austin, most involving a cab driver that he’d called. Perhaps the cab driver had sold him out, or maybe he had been seized by government forces at a checkpoint, or maybe a group of rebels had traded him to the regime. “I don’t think we’ll ever know exactly what happened after he got into that taxi, or if he even did,” Enders wrote to me.

    All early reports seemed to indicate that Austin had been detained by the regime. The first public indication of this came on August 27, when Eva Filipi, the Czech Republic’s ambassador to Damascus, said in an interview with a Czech television reporter during a trip back to Prague, “From one of our sources we came by the news that he is alive, and he was detained by government forces in the suburbs of Damascus.” On August 31, a State Department spokesperson said that the U.S. government was working to confirm reports that Austin was being held but that the Syrian government had yet to respond to official inquiries regarding his whereabouts. By October, U.S. officials’ wording had become less ambiguous. “There’s a lot of reason for the Syrian government to duck responsibility, but we continue to believe that, to the best of our knowledge, we think he is in Syrian government custody,” spokesperson Victoria Nuland told reporters. But the Assad regime has never admitted involvement in Austin’s disappearance.

    Meanwhile, the Tices got a sense of Austin’s impact on Syrians on September 7, when demonstrators at the weekly Friday protests in Yabroud held up posters bearing Austin’s picture and calling for his release. “Freedom for Austin Tice, who lighted Syria with his lens,” one read in Arabic. “Seeing that protest was actually one of the most emotional things for me,” Marc said. “He talked to a lot of people in Yabroud and obviously made a big impression on them.”

    No demands or proof of life were forthcoming. In late September, a shaky, 46-second video was posted to YouTube and later to a pro-Assad Facebook page. Marc was alerted to it by an editor at McClatchy in the middle of the night on October 2, when his phone chimed at 2:15 a.m., jolting him awake. He walked downstairs to watch the clip; as he saw what unfolded, the color drained from his face. The blurry video opens with a shot of a ramshackle convoy of vehicles driving on a dirt road alongside hills covered with stubby, thorny brush. Then a group of men wearing freshly pressed shalwar kameezes, tactical vests, and black headbands, with assault rifles and RPG launchers slung across their shoulders, roughly hustle a blindfolded Austin out of a white pickup truck and up a rocky hillside while shouting “Allahu akbar.” Austin, wearing the same green shirt he had worn on CBS News not long before he disappeared and sporting a newly sprouted beard, looks distraught and bewildered. He recites the Bismillah—“In the name of Allah”—in broken Arabic before sighing and adding, in breathless English, “Oh Jesus, oh Jesus.”

    Shaken, Marc walked over to the sofa in the living room, dreading the moment he had to show the video to his wife. But he didn’t have to wait long. Debra woke up and, upon discovering he wasn’t in bed with her, knew something was wrong and went looking for him. They hunched over the computer and watched the chilling clip together to verify that it was indeed their son. But the Tices found a glimmer of hope in the title of the video: “Austin Tice still alive.” It’s the only time the Tices have gotten a glimpse of their son since his capture.

    “Whoever is holding him, the first message they sent us was that he was alive. I feel certain they must have known that we would be concerned that he had been injured in the attack on Daraya, so there’s this desire for us to be assured that he’s alive, that he’s coming home,” Debra told me this March. “It’s almost like an expression of compassion: ‘I can’t really end your suffering, but I can give you an Advil.’ ”

    Immediately, pundits, journalists, and intelligence analysts began speculating about the origin of the clip, finding that it lacked the hallmarks of typical jihadi videos—slick editing, a prominent logo, a credits page. This led Joseph Holliday, of the Institute for the Study of War, to tell the Post, “It’s like a caricature of a jihadi group.” The clothes weren’t right either: no one in Syria at that point was wearing shalwar kameezes, the tunic-and-pants outfit favored by Afghan men. Joshua Landis, the Middle East expert at the University of Oklahoma, told me, “At the time I looked at it, everyone was asking if it was authentic; at the time it seemed rather staged.” An activist who spent time with Austin near Damascus put it this way: “I think all the Syrian activists believe that the video was a show. And the only real thing in that show was Austin, unfortunately.”

    In November 2012, two months after the video surfaced and three months after Austin went missing, the Tices made the first of four trips to Beirut. They rented an apartment and met with American, Russian, and British diplomats. At a press conference at the Beirut Press Club on November 12, they told a packed room of reporters that they were in the region in hopes that anyone with knowledge of their son’s whereabouts would get in contact with them. They acknowledged that their family was now part of a larger story. “We know that we’re not the only family that’s suffering. Austin’s silence gave us some understanding about the anxieties and uncertainty that so many families in this part of the world face,” Marc told reporters. They stayed in Beirut twice as long as they had planned, returning home in late November for the first of three Thanksgiving meals without their son. “When we left for that trip,” Debra told me, “we were really thinking that we were coming home with Austin.”

    Their son’s disappearance has since taken over the Tices’ lives, and they have joined a small but active community of American parents whose children have been kidnapped in Syria. They became especially close to Diane and John Foley, who first reached out to them in early 2013. Their sons had become friends inside Syria and had been kidnapped within four months of each other, and now their families faced the same unhappy limbo.

    On August 19, 2014, as the Tices prepared for a candlelight prayer vigil marking Austin’s two years of captivity, they received crushing news: a video had appeared online showing James Foley’s beheading by ISIS. Videos showing the deaths of four more prisoners would follow over the next three months: American freelancer Steven Sotloff on September 2, then British aid workers David Haines and Alan Henning and American aid worker Peter Kassig. The footage spurred the Obama administration to take military action against ISIS and awoke the White House to the necessity of changing U.S. hostage policy. The government had forbidden private citizens to raise and pay ransoms for kidnapped Americans, even while some Europeans, without such restrictions from their governments, were paying extremist groups to secure release of their loved ones.

    The Tices, who had been less than enthused about most of their interactions with the government prior to the policy review, twice traveled to Washington to suggest policy changes to government officials. This June, they returned to Washington and, sitting in a room with other families in the Executive Office Building, listened as the president personally laid out the changes to the hostage policy: the government would create a “fusion cell” at the FBI to coordinate interagency efforts; each family would be appointed a “family engagement coordinator”; and, perhaps most important, families would no longer be threatened with prosecution for raising ransoms. The Tices were heartened by the changes, which they said would have helped when Austin first went missing, though they’ve never received a ransom demand or any communication from his captors.

    So where is Austin? The Tices say they don’t know for certain, but they do receive word periodically, from credible sources both within the American government and abroad, that he is alive and “reasonably well treated.” They say they know he’s not being held by ISIS or any part of the Syrian opposition. “We believe it is a Syrian entity of one type or another that’s holding him,” Marc said during a press conference at the National Press Club in Washington this February. “The exact circumstances of Austin’s captivity are still, to a large degree, a mystery to us. We don’t know details and specifics. We have heard . . . that we need to be patient, that there is a general confidence that he will come home safely.”

    Austin worked so hard to bring awareness to the plight of the Syrian people, and his parents are trying to keep up that mission while making sure his plight also receives ample attention. This year the Tices launched an awareness campaign about Austin, partnering with Reporters Without Borders and New York advertising agency J. Walter Thompson. At least 267 news sites donated ad space to the campaign, with the New York Times and the Washington Post each running full-page ads. As part of the campaign, more than eight hundred black blindfolds were printed with #FreeAustinTice, so people could take photos of themselves wearing them and post the images to social media. The most recent public development in the case came in late March, when the French newspaper Le Figaro published a story asserting that “an emissary representing the U.S. government” had visited Austin at a prison in Damascus. The piece went on to claim that the U.S. and Syria were directly negotiating for Austin’s release. State Department officials denied most of the story but did concede that they have been in “periodic, direct contact” with the Syrian government over certain consular issues, including Austin’s case.

    In the meantime, being the parent of a hostage continues to be a full-time job. During a panel discussion at the New America Foundation this April, Debra told the audience that her whole life is devoted to “determining who is holding my son and how to bring him safely home.” This work has taken her to national television studios, to conference rooms in drab government office buildings, and, this past spring, to Paris’s Place de la République, where she spoke onstage before a crowd of more than 10,000 on World Press Freedom Day to mark the thirtieth anniversary of Reporters Without Borders. On her most recent trip to Beirut, which spanned this May and June, Debra sliced her foot open on a jagged pipe while crossing the street. In the ambulance on the way to the American University in Beirut Medical Center, the paramedic told her that he was a UN volunteer and knew all about her son. “You’re the mother of my hero,” he said.

    On most days, there is little the Tices can do. Nearly every morning, Debra wakes up at 4 a.m.—noon in the Middle East—and looks over Twitter to see if anything has shifted overnight. They sift through Google Alerts and tweets and various websites for information. “We’re hopeful about any little change in the region that might give the slightest hope that Austin will be released. We’re always looking for any kind of earth move,” Debra said. This process continues throughout the day. The last thing Marc does before bed is check his phone and Twitter feed. “If I hear a ding in the middle of the night, I check it. That’s when things seem to happen,” he said. “I’m always checking.” One day when I was visiting, Debra got a message from Marc to look into news regarding a meeting between Iranian and Jordanian intelligence agencies. These news tidbits usually don’t amount to much, though the recent nuclear deal with Iran—a close Shiite ally of the Assad regime—and the possibility of Syrian peace talks have given the Tices hope for movement on Austin’s case. But it’s still largely out of their control, and that’s perhaps the most frustrating aspect.

    Debra, who is used to being an integral part of her children’s lives, now has no action to take. “If there’s ever a problem, I’m all over it,” she said. “So part of the frustration is there’s nothing I can put my hands around, there’s nobody I can shake down.” August 13 marked three years since Austin disappeared, and mostly what they’ve heard from his captors is infuriating silence.

    This March Debra and Marc sat in the living room of their ivy-covered red-brick home and showed me old family photos of Austin. Here he is as a toddler with a blue knit cap pulled down over his ears, standing in a pile of leaves in front of his newly built jungle gym. Here he is at sixteen, with the bicycle-powered contraption he built to wheel his lawn mower around the neighborhood to increase the number of lawns he could hit in one day.

    Across the room, hanging on the wall, is a shiny black plaque. This is his George Polk Award, one of the most prestigious honors in journalism. It was presented to Austin in absentia in February 2013 for his McClatchy stories. His parents know he will barely be able to contain himself when he finally sees it. Just above the engraving of Austin’s name, the award lists the field that the former law student and Marine—after just a few months of work—had reached the pinnacle of: “war reporting.”


    August 19, 2015


    Texas' Austin Tice: Captive Three Years

    Aug 19 2015

    A little more than three years ago, Houston-native Austin Tice was taken captive in Syria. His many accolades include Eagle Scout, Marine, and journalist, but his more important titles are friend, brother, and son.

    Austin's family is not just counting the days and minutes he's been gone, but they’re counting the milestones missed over the past three years, too.

    I renew my call for Austin's immediate release by his captors and strongly urge the Obama Administration to utilize all possible means necessary to bring Austin home safely. I’ve recently introduced legislation establishing an Interagency Hostage Recovery Coordinator to create a unified government response to hostage situations like Austin's.

    While nothing can undo the pain he and his loved ones have endured, as a nation we must do everything we possibly can to find Austin and bring this Texan home.

    Tice

    Photo Courtesy the Tice Family

    August 12, 2015

    American Society of Journalists and Authors

    AMERICAN SOCIETY OF JOURNALISTS AND AUTHORS HONORS COURAGEOUS JOURNALISTS

    James Foley, Steven Sotloff, Austin Tice Named ASJA's Conscience In Media Award Recipients

    NEW YORK (August 12, 2015) – The American Society of Journalists and Authors (ASJA) has awarded its prestigious Conscience in Media Award to three American freelance journalists: James Foley, Steven Sotloff, and Austin Tice.

    Foley and Sotloff were killed by ISIS in 2014, and Austin Tice was abducted in 2012 and remains missing. The journalists were abducted in Syria, which the Committee to Protect Journalists has called the greatest danger to working journalists.

    "These three men represent the highest values of journalism: Courage, sacrifice and a firm commitment to the truth," says Randy Dotinga, president of ASJA. "Their bravery and dedication are especially inspiring to us as fellow independent writers."

    "The Conscience in Media award recognizes journalists who knowingly have endured great personal costs while pursuing the highest tenets of their profession," says Sally Wendkos Olds, interim chair of ASJA's First Amendment Committee. This selective award has been presented only eleven times since 1975.

    James Foley was a freelance photojournalist who reported from Afghanistan, Libya, and Syria for GlobalPost, AFP, and other news outlets. He was 40 when he died.

    "Throughout his life, James Foley was driven by deep compassion for people without a voice," says Olds. "As a conflict journalist he knowingly went into dangerous war-torn areas time and time again." After being captured in Libya and held for 44 days, Foley was then kidnapped while covering the Syrian civil war. For almost two years he was continually beaten and tortured for being an American, until in August 2014 he was murdered by ISIS.

    Adds Olds, "Jim Foley expressed his commitment to his work by saying, 'I believe front line journalism is important -- [without it] we can't tell the world how bad it might be.' Tragically, we saw just how bad it was."

    Steven Sotloff was 30 when he disappeared in August 2013 while reporting from Syria. A freelance journalist, Sotloff covered the Middle East extensively and wrote for many publications, including Time, Foreign Policy, World Affairs, and the Christian Science Monitor. He died on September 2, 2014.

    "Steven Sotloff knew the risks of being a reporter in war torn areas of the Middle East, yet he remained undeterred," said Larry Atkins of ASJA's First Amendment Committee. "He kept going back to cover conflicts in Libya, Egypt, Syria and other countries. A brave and talented journalist who wrote for many major publications, Sotloff went to conflict zones because he wanted to tell the stories of ordinary Arab citizens who were suffering. His bravery and courage will be an inspiration to future journalists who risk their lives to tell important stories that need to be told."

    Austin Tice, age 34 and a former Marine captain from Houston, interrupted his studies at Georgetown University Law Center in May 2012 to write about the rebels opposed to the Syrian government. He filed articles for the Washington Post, McClatchy News Service, and other publications during a period when numerous foreign journalists covering the Syrian conflict were being expelled, killed, or abducted. He is believed to be held captive in Syria and to be alive and well, though his whereabouts remain unknown.

    "Austin Tice is deeply deserving of ASJA's Conscience in Media award, not only because of the excellent reporting he provided from the world's most dangerous conflict zone, but also because of his willingness to sacrifice personal safety in order to chronicle the plight of a nation riven by civil war," says Cynthia Greenwood of ASJA's First Amendment Committee.

    The awards will be presented at 9:00 a.m. August 28 at the National Press Club in Washington DC, in conjunction with A Capital Event, a conference for independent writers. Registration for the event is open. Contributions to honor the recipients will be made to the James Foley Scholarship at Marquette University, the Steven Sotloff Foundation, and Reporters Without Borders.

    Founded in 1948, the American Society of Journalists and Authors is the nation's professional association of independent nonfiction writers.

    PAST RECIPIENTS OF THE CONSCIENCE IN MEDIA AWARD

    1994: Anna Elisabeth Rosmus, real-life heroine of the film The Nasty Girl

    1992: Richard Behar, author, "Scientology: The Cult of Greed" (Time, May 6, 1991)

    1992: Paulette Cooper, author, The Scandal of Scientology

    1986: Jonathan Kozol, author, Rachel and Her Children

    1981: Jacopo Timerman

    1981: Erwin Knoll, editor, The Progressive

    1978: Donald Woods, South African expatriate journalist

    1977: Investigative Reporters and Editors

    1977: Don Bolles

    1976: I.F. Stone

    1975: Jerald F. terHorst

    About ASJA

    Founded in 1948, the American Society of Journalists and Authors is the nation's professional organization of independent nonfiction writers. Our 1,200 members consist of outstanding freelance writers of magazine articles, trade books, and many other forms of nonfiction writing, each of whom has met ASJA's exacting standards of professional achievement


    July 31, 2015

    National Press Club July 29, 2015

    Club honors jailed journalists with Press Freedom awards

    July 31, 2015 | By Mark Schoeff Jr. | markschoeff@gmail.com

    The top honorees at the National Press Club awards dinner on July 29 couldn’t attend the event – not due to deadlines or travel but because they are in jail.

    The Club presented its John Aubuchon Press Freedom Award to two U.S. reporters – Jason Rezaian of The Washington Post and freelance reporter Austin Tice – and a foreign correspondent – Khadija Ismayilova of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty – who are being detained in Iran, Syria and Azerbaijan, respectively.

    The Club announced their awards earlier in the year in order to increase pressure on their government captors for their release. The goal was to push for their freedom before the awards dinner.

    Over the past several months, the Club has held news conferences, issued statements, conducted satellite interviews from its broadcast center and met with State Department officials and diplomats, NPC President John Hughes said.

    “While these efforts have not yet proven successful, we are not giving up,” Hughes, an editor at Bloomberg News, told a dinner audience of more than 200. “Press freedom is central to all that we do at the National Press Club. We have family, colleagues and friends of these reporters here tonight. I want them to know, I want all of you to know, we will not stop fighting for these three honorees until they are free to do their jobs.”

    The Aubuchon recipients were among journalists honored in 14 categories of Club awards.

    The Club also presented journalism scholarships and a fellowship to three students – Megan Elizabeth Zahneis of West Chester, Ohio; Alycia Washington of Farmington Hills, Mich.; and Madi Alexander of Columbia, Mo.

    Editors, relatives and friends of the Aubuchon winners said that in each case, the reporters are victims of governments that are trying to shut down press coverage. They are being persecuted for fundamental journalism.

    Rezaian has been held in an Iranian jail for more than a year. On July 22, the Club hosted a press conference in which the Washington Post announced that it had filed a petition for his release with the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention. Rezaian’s brother, Ali, thanked the Club and the journalism community for its help during the family’s ordeal.

    “Each of you should be proud of the support that you give to Jason and others who are being punished for choosing to follow their calling to share their stories and the knowledge they have with the world through the press,” Ali Rezaian said at the dinner.

    Lindsay Hamilton, a friend of Austin Tice, described his exuberance for journalism, even from dangerous locations. She recounted a Facebook post in which Tice told his friends, “Quit telling me to be safe… [reporting from Syria] is the greatest feeling of my life.”

    Ismayilova “has paid the price for living her principles in journalism,” said Nenad Pejic, editor in chief of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. “These awards show they are not forgotten.” The honors “must be used to show governments and the world that we know they are jailing innocent people who are simply doing their jobs,” Pejic said.

    The scholarships and fellowship were funded by the National Press Club Journalism Institute, the Club’s non-profit arm, and are designed to promote diversity in the field.

    Zahneis has battled a rare neurological disorder by becoming a voracious reader and prolific writer, including contributions to the Major League Baseball news website.

    “I want to be the voice of the next generation and I want to harness the power of words,” said Zahneis, who will attend Miami University of Ohio in the fall.

    Washington won a scholarship for her stories about “everyday people in Detroit” who have strengthened the city’s social fabric through their volunteerism during tough economic times. She is set to attend the University of Missouri.

    Alexander, who is a master’s degree student at the University of Missouri specializing in data journalism, will use the fellowship she won from the Club to cover tuition for a project in Washington that is part of her course of study.


    June 24, 2015

    Houston Chronicle, June 24, 2015

    HOUSTON Chronicle

    Family of missing Houston journalist optimistic about changes in hostage policy

    By St. John Barned-Smith

    June 24, 2015 Updated: June 24, 2015 11:42pm

    The family of Austin Tice, a missing journalist from Houston, said the news the U.S. was adopting changes to its hostage policies, including helping the victim's relatives negotiate for the loved one's release, had left them encouraged.

    "After six months of what we believe to be a sincere and dedicated effort to update and clearly define U.S. hostage policy, we are cautiously optimistic that the Executive Order signed by the President is a significant beginning towards effectively bringing our son Austin and other American hostages safely home," Marc Tice said in a statement the family released Wednesday night, a day after learning of the changes at a meeting with representatives of several governmental agencies at the National Counterterrorism Center in Virginia. "We hope this policy will instill in our government a clear focus on the soonest, safe return of all current and future hostages."

    President Barack Obama detailed the changes at a news conference at the White House Wednesday. "When it comes to how our government works to recover Americans held hostage and how we work with their families, we are changing how we do business."

    The changes came after hearing the "frequent frustrations" from families of hostages dealing with the government, he said.

    In the past, family members of captive journalists described frustrating encounters with low-level bureaucrats, of feeling like no person or agency had been specifically tasked with the rescue of the captive hostage, and even threats of prosecution if family members tried to negotiate for their release.

    "That's totally unacceptable. These families have already suffered enough, and they should never feel ignored or victimized by their own government," Obama said, explaining that while the government would continue to not offer ransom payments or prisoner swaps for Americans held abroad, the officials would no longer threaten family members of captives with potential prosecution if they try to negotiate for their loved ones' release.

    Family keeps hope

    Tice, 33, went missing in 2012, while he was covering the civil war in Syria as a freelance reporter for the Washington Post, McClatchy News and other publications.

    The last time he was seen was in a video posted to YouTube in late September of that year, showing him being led by armed gunman into a scrubby hillside.

    Since then, his parents, Marc and Debra Tice, have advocated relentlessly for his return. Ever since his disappearance, they have maintained that Austin is alive, citing assurances they've received from numerous, diverse, "credible" sources in U.S. government and abroad.

    Austin's fate, and the recent slayings of kidnapped journalists and aid workers by the Islamic State terrorist group, which is also known as ISIS, thrust the Tice family and relatives of other Americans taken hostage - and their plight - into the public eye.

    In Austin's case, Reporters without Borders launched a massive publicity campaign aimed at raising awareness about his plight and ratcheting up pressure to obtain his release. Nearly 270 newspapers and media organizations joined together in the campaign, highlighting the journalist's case on their websites and directing readers to an online petition urging action by the U.S. government to free him.

    'A healthy development'

    On Wednesday, the Paris-based organization also noted the government's changes to the policy. "The new policy constitutes significant progress but could go much further," the group said, in a press release about the developments.

    "The White House now says there is room for negotiations in the handling of hostage cases. This is a healthy development. Words must be translated into action and more information must be shared with the families, who have too long been sidelined when strategic decisions were taken about their loved-ones," Reporters Without Borders Secretary-General Christophe Deloire said, in the statement. "The U.S. authorities must show they are equal to the hopes they have raised."

    The Tice family, too, would still like more changes.

    "We continue to have concerns about several issues, including the leadership structure described in the policy, and the lack of specific mention of the protection of the identity and assets of hostages," Marc Tice said in the statement. "Nevertheless, we think this is a strong start, and we appreciate the President's commitment to periodically reviewing and improving this policy.

    "Our family will be delighted when we hold Austin in our arms as proof of the effectiveness of this new policy."

    St. John Barned-Smith

    Reporter, Houston Chronicle


    May 12, 2015

    White House Press Release

    THE WHITE HOUSE

    Office of the Press Secretary

    FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE  

    May 12, 2015

     

    Statement by National Security Council Spokesperson Bernadette Meehan on Austin Tice

     

    This week, it is with a heavy heart that we mark American journalist Austin Tice’s 1,000th day in captivity.  Austin was abducted in August 2012 while reporting from a suburb of Damascus in Syria.  An award-winning journalist and Marine Corps veteran, Austin entered Syria in May 2012 with a desire to report on the impact of the war on ordinary Syrians and an eagerness to help others – values that were instilled in him by his loving family and close friends.

     

    The United States government will continue to work tirelessly to bring Austin home to his parents, Debra and Marc, and his brothers and sisters, who have endured anguish and suffering since Austin’s abduction.  We greatly appreciate the efforts of the Czech government, which acts as the U.S. protecting power in Syria, on behalf of our citizens, including Austin. 

     

    We strongly urge Austin’s captors to release him so that he can be safely reunited with his family.  We call on all those who may have information about Austin’s whereabouts – governments and individuals – to work cooperatively with us to help bring him home.

     


    May 3, 2015

    Debra Tice speaks at Celebration of World Press Freedom Day and 30th Anniversary of Reporters without Borders in Paris

    May 3, 2015                                                                                                                                   L'OBS (France) Interview: Debra Tice: "I wanted to see people in the streets demanding the release of my son"

    Debra Tice et son fils Austin Tice, disparu en Syrie en août 2012. (DR)

    May 1, 2015

    Sam Houston State University students and its Global Center for Journalism and Democracy support World Press Freedom Day and #FreeAustinTice


    April 28, 2015

    Austin Tice

    April 27, 2015

    Houston Public Media - UH Event


    April 23, 2015

    Freelancer Austin Tice, detained in Syria, to receive Aubuchon Press Freedom Award

    April 23, 2015 | By John Donnelly | jdonnelly@cq.com

    American freelance reporter Austin Tice, detained in Syria since 2012, will receive one of the club's most prestigious honors.

    The club will give Tice a John Aubuchon Press Freedom Award at its annual awards dinner July 29. The Aubuchon award recognizes those whose work has demonstrated the courage that lies at the heart of a free press.

    Tice joins Jason Rezaian, a Washington Post reporter detained in Iran, as recipients of the Club's domestic freedom of the press award this year. The club announced Rezaian's award on March 12. The Club also recognizes a foreign journalist annually.

    Tice, a freelance reporter, left home for Syria in May 2012 to tell the story of the conflict in that country and its impact on the ordinary people there. His work was published by McClatchy Newspapers, the Washington Post, the Associated Press, AFP and others.

    In August 2012, Tice disappeared near Damascus. It still remains uncertain who holds him, but he is believed to be alive and not held by the Islamic State militant group, according to credible sources.

    "Austin Tice embodies the best of our profession, and whoever is jailing him represents the worst of the many threats to journalism," Club President John Hughes said. "In giving this award, we want to particularly make sure the world remembers Tice and the other freelancers who often work in dangerous places without adequate support and protection."

    Hughes announced the award at the start of a half-day program today at the club to discuss baseline standards for protecting freelance journalists who work in war zones. The club's Journalism Institute, the Investigative Reporting Workshop and the Committee to Protect Journalists are holding the event.

    Tice's parents thanked the club for the honor.

    "This is an important recognition that both Jason and Austin are being held because of their commitment to gather, record and report the news," Tice's parents said. "With them, we believe that freedom of information and expression is a self-evident unalienable right belonging to every person. We earnestly hope and pray Austin and Jason will be here in July to personally accept this prestigious award."

    April 18, 2015

    April 6, 2015

    New America Foundation: Abducted Abroad: Returning American Hostages


    April 14, 2015

    Georgetown University hosts week of campus

    activities for #FreeAustinTice awareness campaign
     

    March 27, 2015

    March 27, 2015

    March 20, 2015


    Many thanks to the Newseum in Washington D.C. for including Austin in its compelling exhibit on risks to journalists

    February 21, 2015

    February 19, 2015

    Mark Seibel - McClatchy Washington Bureau

    February 18, 2015


    February 18, 2015

    February 17, 2015

    Marc and Debra Tice in the Houston Public Media studios. The scarf reads, "#FREEAUSTINTICE."

    KUHF Houston Public Radio



    February 16, 2015


    February 15, 2015


    February 13, 2015


    February 13, 2015


    February 13, 2015

    Maria Gianniti - Radio UNO Italy


    February 13, 2015

    MSNBC - Andrea Mitchell Reports - from 2:38


    February 13, 2015


    February 12, 2015


    February 12, 2015

    Joy Reid - The Reid Report MSNBC


    February 12, 2015


    February 11, 2015

    CCTV



    February 11, 2015

    February 11, 2015

    NPR's Here and Now with Robin Young


    February 11, 2015

    ABC Channel 13 Houston - Sonia Azad


    February 10, 2015



    February 10, 2015

    February 9, 2015


    February 7, 2015

    February 6, 2015

    PBS Newshour with Judy Woodruff


    February 6, 2015

    Shepard Smith and Fox News

    February 5, 2015

    Marc and Debra Tice Blindfolded

    February 5, 2015

    National Press Club Conference with Reporters without Borders

    February 5, 2015

    McClatchyDC - National Press Club Interview


    February 4, 2015

    Houston Chronicle: Houston mother of hostage wants a new look at U.S. policy

    February 4, 2015

    The Newseum: The News We Could Lose

    The Newseum: The News We Could Lose - 2nd Panel



    January 19, 2015


    CBSN Interview



    January 14, 2015


    Democracy Now! Interview


    December 6, 2014


    (Link to Article)

    Thank you to Kelli Arena, who holds the Dan Rather Chair of Broadcast Journalism at Sam Houston State University, for her article discussing the importance of American journalism, and addressing questions about Austin and others who choose to report from parts of the world in upheaval.  

    This work is indeed necessary if we are to be an informed people.  If we desire to exercise our voice in the policies and actions of our country, we must be informed about the details of the situations on which our government is acting - this information is what journalists like Austin strive to provide.

    We would also add that the use of government resources to help Americans in trouble overseas is not a new phenomenon, and is in fact a long-standing, significant function of government. Many elements of the US government, including the State Department (Overseas Citizens Services) and the FBI (Office for Victim Assistance), operate offices with the mission of helping US citizens - journalists, tourists, business people and others - who find themselves in difficulties in other countries.

    November 23, 2014

    (Link to Text)


    November 10, 2014


    Our sincere thanks to Marty Baron, Executive Editor of The Washington Post for mentioning Austin and making an impassioned statement on the threats to journalists and journalism.

    (Link to Text)


    September 25, 2014

    Sonia Azad - Houston ABC 13 KTRK

     KTRK By 
    Thursday, September 25, 2014
    HOUSTON (KTRK) --
    Marc and Debra Tice are in the fight of their lives. 

    "We'd love to hear his voice, to communicate with him," said Marc Tice. "Every time the phone rings, we hope it's Austin calling for a ride." 

    Their son Austin, a former U.S. Marine, Georgetown law student and freelance journalist was captured two years ago in a suburb of Damascus, Syria. 

    "We have no reason to believe he's held with ISIS," his father told us in a one-on-one interview. Austin's mother continued, "Early on, we decided that to try to speculate was just another way of wasting energy. Instead of trying to figure it out, we would just like to know."

    The Houston couple has sent messages to Syria through intermediaries, and hope Austin is somewhere safe, watching and hearing everything. 

    "We hear through credible sources that we should not worry, that he is alive and he is safe and he is not ill-treated and we need to be patient," said Debra Tice. Her husband added, "At the same time, they never come with any proof, or evidence, anything concrete, anyone to contact directly, and that's what we're really looking for." 

    Through airstrike campaigns led by the U.S. government and a series of recent gruesome beheadings of other American journalists, the Tices are frustrated with the pace and process to get their son back. Still, 773 days into their fight, they hold on to hope. 

    "We always hope that any changes in what's going on (in Syria) will create an opportunity for a channel of communication or for someone - whoever it is that's holding Austin-to decide things are different now, and we'll send this boy home."

    Austin's parents are encouraging their friends and neighbors in Houston to communicate with President Barack Obama the importance of seeing Austin get safely back home. 

    September 24, 2014


    BBC World Service


    September 23, 2014

    CNN: Elwyn Lopez Interview


    September 23, 2014

    Parents of U.S. journalist who went missing in Syria want answers

    By Ashley FantzEd Lavandera and Elwyn Lopez, CNN
    updated 10:18 PM EDT, Tue September 23, 2014

    September 23, 2014

    CNN: Erin Burnett Out Front


    September 18, 2014


    Thank you to our Congressman, the Honorable Al Green, for bringing Austin's plight to the floor of the US House of Representatives.

    Congressman Al Green


    September 10, 2014


    CBS Morning Interview with Clarissa Ward


    September 10, 2014

    CBS - "I know where your son is."


    September 10, 2014

    CBS - "There's no manual for this."


    September 10, 2014

    CBS - Austin and James Foley


    August 17, 2014


    Thank you Bryan Wendell and Scouting magazine for sharing Austin's story with his fellow Scouts:

    August 15, 2014


    Our thanks to Jonathan Hunt who shares Austin's story on Fox News:

    August 14, 2014


    Houston Public Media's "Houston Matters" shares our thoughts.  Thanks to Craig Cohen and all the team at Houston Public Media



    August 14, 2014


    We are grateful to our hometown newspaper, The Houston Chronicle, for devoting so much of their content today to Austin, and for doing so in such a professional and compassionate way.

    August 14, 2014


    Thank you to CBS News for this Article

    August 14, 2014



    Many thanks to our dear friends and Austin's fantastic colleagues at McClatchy News for their unwavering support.  McClatchy DC

    Our thanks also to The Washington Post, whose management and staff have been steadfast with resources, advice and support from the beginning. Thank you.  The Washington Post

    August 11, 2014

    Thank you to Fox 26 Houston KRIV Television and Randy Wallace for sharing Austin's story on his 33rd Birthday:


    July 30, 2014

    John Cornyn, US Senator from Texas, Speaks out for Austin's Release

    We thank the Senator for speaking on Austin's behalf, and for his steadfast commitment to bring Austin safely home.


    December 22, 2013

    CBS Sunday Evening News

    July 05, 2013

    Parents of reporter missing in Syria plead for news

    By Sara Hussein (AFP) – Jul 5, 2013 

    BEIRUT — Debra Tice wakes up each morning hoping her life will have changed and the 11 months since her son Austin disappeared in Syria will turn out to have been a bad dream.

    But since she and her husband Marc learnt that their 31-year-old first-born had gone missing while reporting in the war-torn country, not a single morning has given her that relief.

    "I just wake up and think, I woke up again and nothing has changed, it wasn't a dream," she told AFP in Beirut, where she and her husband are looking for information about their missing child.

    "I put my feet on the floor and I build a wall around my emotions and I just think about what strength I need for today," she added.

    Austin Tice was in law school in the United States when he decided to head to Syria last year to try to kickstart a journalism career.

    He contributed to the Washington Post and McClatchy newspapers, among others, and was awarded a prestigious Polk award after his disappearance in August 2012.

    Since then, his parents and his six brothers and sisters have had almost no information about him.

    In September, a video showing him purportedly being held by radical Islamists surfaced, but questions were raised about whether those shown in the video were really militants, and Marc Tice says the recording "raised more questions than it answered".

    Still, he says, the video proved their son was still alive -- a rare moment of relief in an otherwise agonising search for information that has included two trips to the region and numerous meetings with anyone who will talk to them.

    "We will meet with anybody," Debra says. "If you tell me a taxi driver on a street corner in the middle of nowhere knows how to get my son home, I will go meet with him."

    "We would go to Damascus, if it was purposeful, if we were invited," adds Marc.

    US officials believe Tice is being held by the regime of President Bashar al-Assad, which is fighting an armed rebellion triggered by a bloody crackdown on democracy protests that broke out in March 2011.

    The Tices say the Syrian government denies any record of their son being in the country, but has agreed to search for him.

    "Honestly, we're not that interested in who or why, we're interested in how do we get him back, what is needed to return him to us safely," Marc says.

    As part of their search, the family has set up a website, www.austinticefamily.com, where anyone with information can contact them.

    And they urge their son's captors to reach out.

    "We ask you to keep him safe, take care of him, let him know that he's loved and people are looking for him and especially let us know how we can bring him home again."

    In the meanwhile, Tice's family are trying to lead something approaching a normal life, celebrating birthdays and graduations.

    "You can just never really give your heart fully to joy, because there's this 'where's our big guy?' feeling," Debra says.

    "He's so profoundly missing for us."

    The separation is particularly hard for Debra, who homeschooled her seven children.

    "The only thing I ever wanted to do was to be a mummy of lots of kids!" she laughs.

    Tice is one of at least seven reporters missing in Syria, including James Foley, an American video contributor to AFP who has not been heard from since last November.

    The Tices say they have reached out to the families of other missing reporters to share information and support.

    "It's a club that the membership price is very steep, no one wants to join," Debra says quietly.

    She thinks often about how she will react when she is reunited with Austin.

    "You know that feeling when your child lets go of your hand in the mall?" she says with a smile.

    "You're frantic and you're looking, and then you find them, and first you hug them and then you spank them? It's that kind of reaction."

    Copyright © 2013 AFP. All rights reserved.

    July 03, 2013

    Karen Leigh (@leighstream) - Syria Deeply –  July 03, 2013

    In Beirut, A Family’s Search for Austin Tice

    On August 13, 2012, Austin Tice, a 31-year-old American journalist writing for McClatchy newswires, the Washington Post and other publications vanished without a trace from the Damascus suburb where he’d been living and working.

    Tice, a former USMC infantry officer, had put his law studies at Georgetown University on hold to cover the Syrian conflict.

    In May, Global Post, investigating the disappearance of one of its own freelance reporters, James Foley, said it believed Foley, along with at least one other American journalist (widely believed to be Tice) was being held by the Syrian regime in the vicinity of the capital.

    On a fact-finding visit to Beirut this week, Austin’s parents, Marc and Debra Tice, talked with Syria Deeply.

    Syria Deeply: You had to be nervous when he said, “I’m moving to Syria.”

    Marc: Going back to when he told us that he was going to go to Syria in the first place, if you know Austin, you know that he’s not reckless, he’s incredibly thoughtful, he’s not impulsive. He’s also incredibly passionate and determined, and when he decides he needs to do something, that’s what he’s going to do. He didn’t go lightly. He talked to a lot of people before he went. He does have training. He’s not new to areas of crisis. So we had that confidence. On the other hand, of course you’re concerned.

    Debra: But I still get concerned when he’s home and rides his bike without a helmet.

    Austin Tice / Courtesy Tice Family

    Austin Tice / Courtesy Tice Family

    Marc: Or the motorcycle he bought.

    Debra: Oh my gosh.

    Marc: We learned a long time ago not to talk him out of something. We try to ask whatever questions we can ask to make sure he’s thought of anything. What advice do we have to give him about journalism in Syria? We don’t have any.

    Debra: My personality – Austin was home-schooled – is that a job half-done is a job wholly undone. So for him to want to tell this story, he needed to do all he could to get the whole story. It was important to him to try to understand all sides of the story. He just wouldn’t be satisfied with half. It had to be all.

    SD: Was it an anomaly not to hear from him?

    Marc: If we didn’t Google chat or Facebook with him [personally], we saw where he had chatted or emailed or talked to somebody, and we know all the people he was talking to. So pretty much every day, we’d communicate with him or know he was communicating with someone. One time we didn’t hear from him for two days, and –

    Debra: I knew that I was on very thin ice when I picked up the phone for the first time, found his editor’s name and number in a directory, and called and said, I know I’m going to be in really big trouble for this, but …

    Marc: And sure enough, when he popped back up, he was furious. “That was so unprofessional! I don’t want my mom calling my editor!” But his editor was a bear of a guy with a big heart.

    Debra: They’ve been stellar for us.

    Marc: That was the only time we’d not been in touch or heard anything from him.

    Debra: And then he really drilled it into us, you can’t be freaking out after five minutes of not hearing from me.

    Marc: So then when it was three days, four days, we’d developed a good relationship with the people at McClatchy. Debbie was canoeing in the boundary waters in Minnesota, and I was at home. I called McClatchy, and they said, We haven’t heard from him either, and we’re concerned. We got a call back from the Washington bureau chief who said we’ve got word out, then we got a call from the State Department that they’d been alerted and were seeing what they could do. And every day since then has been, OK, tomorrow we’re going to hear from him, tomorrow he’ll be released.

    Debra: Our phones are on all the time, with us.

    SD: Were you aware of the risks faced in Syria by freelance journalists?

    Marc: When he went, he had an arrangement with McClatchy. So we knew he had a shot – originally he was only going to do photos – and that there would be someone that would look at him and get him published. I didn’t think about insurance, support, backup. I do now. Because we’re connected to organizations like Reporters without Borders. I guess if we had known about all this, we would have asked those questions.

    Debra: We knew Austin would know the questions to have asked.

    Marc: I don’t worry about him knowing basic field first aid. Of course he does. And he’s big, tough and very smart.

    SD: He won the Polk Award while missing. It’s arguably the most prestigious award a journalist can win for Syria coverage.

    Debra: It was so affirming that he was on the right path and doing something he’s very gifted at. And on the other hand …

    Marc: He will be, if he doesn’t know now, he will be thrilled. And McClatchy gave him their President’s Award. It’s a great thing, you want to celebrate, but you can’t really celebrate. It is affirming, for him and for us, I hope, confirming that he was there as a journalist, that’s what he was all about. And he wasn’t some crazy guy taking a flier. He was capable. He was a freelancer, but – he had a contract going in, he picked up a couple more when he was there, he won the Polk. He wasn’t looking for adventure. He was doing a job.

    Debra: Before he left, when he was letting news outlets know that he was going, he was really adamant about personal interviews [with editors]. He really didn’t want to just have electronic relationships. He’s a firstborn son, Type A, driven, confident. In August, he started getting calls from the BBC, from CBS, saying, can you do a spot for us?

    Marc: He felt trained and ready to be a photojournalist. And then his editor asked him to write a backstory on a photo. When he did, his editor said, “And now you will write an article.”

    Debra: He will be thrilled and proud and happy to have been recognized for what he was doing. He was confident that he could do this, but he’d never done it before. Anytime you try your hand at something you haven’t done before professionally, succeeding is a thrill.

    (The Tice family welcomes tips and information at www.austinticefamily.com.)

    June 27, 2013

    Parents of kidnapped American journalist in Syria urge his release

    Al Arabiya - Thursday, 27 June 2013
     
    Parents of the missing American journalist, Austin Tice, in Syria urged their son’s kidnappers to release him. (Al Arabiya)
    Al Arabiya

    Parents of a missing American journalist in Syria urged their son’s kidnappers to release him or hand over information on his status, in an interview with Al Arabiya on Thursday.

    The journalist, Austin Tice, was kidnapped from a Damascus suburb called Darya on Aug. 13, 2012.

    The parents are currently in the Lebanese capital, Beirut, attempting to obtain any information they can on their son’s whereabouts.

    Austin’s father said the family is receiving help from both the American and Syrian government, adding that Damascus promised the family they will help find the missing journalist.

    June 27, 2013

    Tice’s parents cling to hope for his return

    June 27, 2013 12:44 AM
    By Olivia Alabaster
    The Daily Star

    The Tices say whoever is holding their son has gained nothing. 
    The Tices say whoever is holding their son has gained nothing.


    A+A-

    BEIRUT: Ten months after their son went missing in Syria, Debra and Marc Tice say that while every day feels like a recurring nightmare they are still confident that they will be reunited one day. Getting ready to head to Beirut after having spent the summer reporting for the Washington Post and McClatchy newspapers, Texas native Austin was kidnapped last August, two days after his 31st birthday.

    His last tweet read, “Spent the day at an FSA pool party with music by @taylorswift13. They even brought me whiskey. Hands down, best birthday ever.”

    In September, a brief video clip emerged on a pro-Assad site of a blindfolded Austin, being led by a group of armed men shouting “Allahu Akbar,” but there has been doubt cast over whether these were genuine Islamists or Assad loyalists posing as such.

    Speaking a month later, U.S. State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said that “to the best of our knowledge, we think he [Tice] is in Syrian government custody.” The Tices themselves said they would leave speculation up to others.

    “We’re not particularly interested in the story of how and why. We’re just interested in getting him back,” Marc said in an interview with The Daily Star Wednesday.

    The couple is back in Beirut to try and follow up on Austin’s case, having previously visited in November.

    They chose to return now, they said, due to the rapid ground developments in Syria, and the changing situation in Beirut itself.

    A renewed diplomatic push, namely by the U.S. and Russia for Geneva II peace talks, has also encouraged the Tices, even though it keeps being pushed back as the two sides squabble over the details.

    “There is so much more international and diplomatic impetus happening now. Really all we have is our voice, and we want to make sure that it is heard,” Marc said.

    The eldest of seven children, Austin was in the middle of a law degree when he decided to come to Syria to write, because, as Marc remembers, “he was hearing reports from Syria saying this is happening and that is happening but it can’t be confirmed because there really are no reporters on the ground. And he said, ‘You know, this is a story that the world needs to know about.’”

    They are reticent to say they have made progress – “progress would be something tangible. Success is when we have him home again,” Marc said. The Tices say they are encouraged that while all the Syrian government originally said was, “We don’t have him and we don’t know where he is,” they have now vowed “to us that they will look for him and that they will hold him safe and release him to us.”

    In a close-knit family, Austin’s absence “hangs over everything,” Marc said. The couple recounted all the birthdays and graduations he had already missed this year, but it is also the support of his younger siblings which is so vital to them now.

    However, he said, “the days don’t get any easier.”

    “It is unimaginable because you know, I wake up and realize it was not a nightmare. And so it’s just that feeling of – another day. Sometimes you don’t know if you’re waking or sleeping, because it’s so unreal,” Debra said.

    But while so many other people would be angry in a similar situation, the Tices believe only in forgiveness.

    “We’re asking for mercy and so when I feel my emotions tending in a negative way, I just think, I’m asking for mercy, so I just want to be a person who is very quick to give mercy,” Debra said.

    Also, Marc said, in a conflict which has left around 100,000 dead and around 18,000 missing, and rendered nearly 2 million people refugees, they recognize that they are not the only ones to suffer.

    “If we start getting angry or indignant,” Marc said, in the gentlest tones, “we’re humbled by the fact that there are hundreds of thousands of people whose lives have been turned upside down. The refugees, the people that have lost their loved ones. Our pain, frustration, anger kind of pales in comparison to all of that.”

    “Where does anger get us? Nowhere,” he added.

    They would admit to being frustrated though, frustrated at the lack of a note or a call, from either Austin or his captors, “to know something definitive about how he is or where he is. But most importantly, when is he going to be back with us?” Marc asked.

    However, the outpouring of support has been overwhelming, the Tices said, from those who worked with Austin to strangers and officials from the State Department.

    Since disappearing, Austin has received two awards for his journalism – the George Polk Award for War Reporting and the McClatchy President’s Award for Journalism Excellence – but Marc and Debra could not attend because, “instead of celebration speeches, they became condolence speeches.”

    The message that Austin’s parents want to spread now is that whoever is holding him has gained nothing from doing so, but that “there’s something to be gained from his release. And that’s what we’re trying to get across, and trying to do what we can to make that happen.”

    “We have not yet touched the heart of the person holding him. So we have to keep asking, and make sure that our desire for his return, our request for mercy, gets to the right person,” Marc explained.

    As Debra added, “There’s no manual for this. We wish there was but ... we’re making this up as we go along, and asking for help.”

    Anyone with details on the whereabouts of Austin Tice can contact the family at: information@austinticefamily.com.

     











































    June 20, 2013

    Senators send letter to Secretary of State John Kerry

    Senators Write Kerry about Missing Journalists


    June 5, 2013

    Parents of kidnapped journalist grateful for Pope's words

    Austin Tice. Courtesy of The Tice Family.

    Houston, Texas, Jun 5, 2013 / 06:04 am (CNA/EWTN News).- The parents of kidnapped American journalist Austin Tice have appealed again for his release, voicing gratitude for Pope Francis' words on behalf of all abducted victims in the Syrian conflict.

    “It is a tremendous comfort to know the Holy Father is praying for the people of Syria, and that he has personally appealed to the humanity of kidnappers to release their victims,” Marc and Debra Tice of Houston, Texas told CNA June 3.

    On Monday, Pope Francis denounced the “scourge of kidnapping” in Syria and appealed to captors' humanity to free the victims. Those recently abducted in the country include two Orthodox Christian bishops.

    The Pope's message was personally relevant to the Tices, whose son Austin disappeared in August 2012 near the Damascus suburb of Daraya where he was reporting on the Syrian conflict. Austin, a 31-year-old former Marine Corps captain and Georgetown University graduate, was working as a freelance reporter for the Washington Post and McClatchy News Service.

    The Tices said their son, the oldest of seven children, is “all Texan: big, loud and friendly.” They noted how his photographs of Syrians, especially local children, show “his respect for the humanity of the Syrian people.”

    “From what we've heard, his respect was reciprocated,” they said. “You could hear in his voice how happily and deeply he was engaged in his work.”

    Austin Tice has now been missing for more than nine months.

    His parents do not know for certain who is holding him captive, and recent developments in the Syrian conflict could affect Austin's future.

    Debra Tice said that the situation of the Daraya area has recently been “very fluid” as opposition groups and the Syrian government contest control.

    “We feel this could increase his chances of escape or rescue and ask everyone in the area to be aggressively searching for him in order to secure his safe return to us,” she explained.

    “Additionally, the upcoming U.S.- and Russian-led peace talks scheduled in Geneva offer an opportunity for discussion by all parties regarding the release of captives.”

    Marc Tice also saw some hopeful signs. “The best development in the past few months has been the commitment we’ve received from more than one Syrian official,” he said. “They’ve told us and others that the Syrian government will do everything it can to locate Austin and return him safely.

    “We have been assured through many channels that Austin is alive and being treated well, yet we have no concrete evidence of who is holding him or how to secure his release and return.”

    In September 2012 a 47-second video of the journalist was posted on a pro-Syrian government website and appears to implicate Islamic militants in the kidnapping. The clip shows Austin blindfolded in the custody of armed men as he tries to recite in Arabic the shahada or Muslim declaration of faith, the Associated Press reported. He then switches to English and says “Oh Jesus. Oh Jesus.”

    Some critics of the video have said it appears to be staged, possibly by pro-Syrian government forces who want to discredit the opposition, the Christian Science Monitor wrote in December 2012.

    The Czech embassy, which is representing the U.S. in Syria after its own embassy closed in 2011, in December said its sources believe Tice is being held captive by the Syrian government. The Syrian government, however, denied those reports.

    Syria's contradicting stories are part of what drew Austin Tice to the country. His father said he was among those who sought to find the truth about the two-year-old conflict between supporters and opponents of the government of President Bashar Assad.

    “Austin told me he was frustrated by early reports out of Syria which couldn't be confirmed because no verifiable reports were available,” Marc said.

    “He told me he believed the story of this conflict needed to be told and that he believed he had the skills to do it. Considering the recognition and awards he’s received for his work, I'm inclined to believe he was right.”

    Since his kidnapping, Tice has been awarded the George Polk Award for War Reporting and the McClatchy President’s Award for Journalism Excellence.

    Austin's parents said their son did not join them in converting to Catholicism in 1999, but he was raised with “a firm foundation in the Christian faith.”

    “He has memorized a great deal of Holy Scripture and learned the Catechism,” his parents said. “He enjoyed listening to theological discussions on Christian radio. In times of stress and trouble, he relies on the unwavering love of God.”

    Debra reflected that her faith has helped her during this time of uncertainty.

    “I firmly believe God is in control and pray for His will to be done. I know it is God’s desire for all people to live in peace. I pray constantly for an outpouring of mercy to restore peace to our family, to Syria, the Levant, and the entire world,” she said.

    She also noted the positive effect of knowing that people around the world are praying for Austin and the Tice family. “These prayers give us hope and strength; undoubtedly they are also a source of great comfort for our son.”

    Marc said that the kidnapping of his son “has challenged the foundations on which my faith has been built – much of which I am sure needed to be challenged.”

    “As a convert to Catholicism, I was especially drawn to the way the Church expressed faith as a journey, and how understanding and enlightenment was not necessarily a flash of brilliance, rather a life-long process. I trust this part of my journey will leave me not only changed but stronger,” he said.

    Debra voiced her love in a message directed to her son, saying: “We work and pray daily for your safe return. Do not despair; remain steadfast in faith.”

    Both parents urged their son's captors to keep him safe and treat him well. “Have compassion on us and let him come home,” Marc said.

    The Tice family asks anyone with information about Austin to contact them through their website, www.austinticefamily.com.


    May 31, 2013

    Missing Journalist Austin Tice's Parents To Travel To BeirutKUHF logo

    May 31, 2013

    by: AP

    HOUSTON (AP) — Parents of a freelance journalist who disappeared while covering the Syrian civil war hope upcoming talks aimed at peace between the Syrian government and rebels will hasten his release.

    In a statement issued through a family spokesman Thursday, Austin Tice's parents said they plan to travel from Houston to Beirut soon "to reach more deeply into the region on behalf of our son."

    Marc and Debra Tice say they're uncertain who is holding their son. They asked all sides of the Syrian insurrection to "keep Austin in their minds" as peace talks approach. They also ask that the Syrian government "search vigorously for Austin in order to secure his safe return."

    The 31-year-old ex-Marine was one of a few journalists reporting from Damascus when he vanished last August.

    May 31, 2013

    McClatchy Chief of Correspondents


    May 31, 2013

    Full Length Interview: Fox Report with Shepard Smith

    Interview with Jonathan Hunt

    May 31, 2013

    Associated Press

    Missing Journalist's Parents to Travel to Beirut


    By TERRY WALLACE Associated Press
    DALLAS May 31, 2013 (AP)

    The parents of a freelance journalist who disappeared while covering civil war in Syria said Thursday that they hope upcoming talks aimed at peace between the Syrian government and rebels will hasten his release.

    In a statement issued through a family spokesman, Austin Tice's parents said they plan to travel from Houston to Beirut soon "to reach more deeply into the region on behalf of our son."

    The statement is the first issued by the family since a video of Tice was posted online in late September. The 47-second video, which Marc and Debra Tice called "distressing" in their Thursday statement, showed their son blindfolded and saying "Oh, Jesus" in a frightened voice in the custody of armed men.

    The video shows Tice trying to recite the Muslim declaration of faith, or shahada, until he switches to English and says, "Oh Jesus. Oh Jesus," and rests his head on a captor's arm.

    The video was the first sign of Austin Tice's condition since he disappeared in August. Tice, a 31-year-old former Marine, had been reporting on Syria's civil war for The Washington Post, McClatchy Newspapers and others. He was one of a few journalists reporting from Damascus when he vanished.

    His parents said they were uncertain who is holding their son. "Above all, we request that the Syrian government search vigorously for Austin in order to secure his safe return. Soon, we plan to return to Beirut to reach more deeply into the region on behalf of our son," the Houston couple said.

    Their statement details some family celebrations and journalistic honors awarded to Austin Tice since his disappearance. They asked all sides of the Syrian insurrection to "keep Austin in their minds" in peace talks.

    The international community had hoped the two sides would start talks next month on a political transition. However, the opposition group, the Syrian National Coalition, said earlier Thursday that it would not attend a conference, linking the decision to a regime offensive on the western Syrian town of Qusair and claiming that hundreds of wounded people were trapped there.

    ———

    Online:

    http://www.austinticefamily.com

    May 30, 2013

    Lyse Doucet, BBC

    May 30, 2013

    Hannah Allam, McClatchy

    May 30, 2013

    May 30, 2013


    Associated Press

    Missing journalist's parents to travel to Beirut

    Posted: May 30, 2013 4:36 PM CDT Updated: May 30, 2013 4:36 PM CDT

    HOUSTON (AP) - Parents of a freelance journalist who disappeared while covering the Syrian civil war hope upcoming talks aimed at peace between the Syrian government and rebels will hasten his release.

    In a statement issued through a family spokesman Thursday, Austin Tice's parents said they plan to travel from Houston to Beirut soon "to reach more deeply into the region on behalf of our son."

    Marc and Debra Tice say they're uncertain who is holding their son. They asked all sides of the Syrian insurrection to "keep Austin in their minds" as peace talks approach. They also ask that the Syrian government "search vigorously for Austin in order to secure his safe return."

    The 31-year-old ex-Marine was 1 of a few journalists reporting from Damascus when he vanished last August.

    Online:

    http://www.austinticefamily.com

    Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


    May 30, 2013

    Interview: Fox Report with Shepard Smith

    Interview with PressTV

    YouTube Video


    Parents of missing American journalist in Syria hopeful

    Parents of the missing American journalist, Austin Tice, have expressed hope the conflict in Syria would end soon.


    The American freelance journalist, who has been writing regularly for the Washington Post and other US media, has gone missing in Syria since mid-August 2012. 

    Austin’s parents are hopeful that Geneva 2 talks would be successful and that a solution would end the suffering and impact of the conflict in Syria. 

    “Well one thing that is clear or is at least clear to us is that the situation in Syria is extremely fluid, changing from day to day and one of our hopes and I guess maybe it’s just a parent’s hope is that with changes and with movements the opportunity for Austin to be found is greater,” Austin’s parents told Press TV.

    “It would be our desire that hostilities and violence stop and we hope the international community can find a way for that to happen,” they added. 

    “But at the same time we are very hopeful that someone that sees this interview or hears us speaking and knows something about our son, where Austin is, would contact us.” 

    On Monday, Yara Abbas, working with Syria's private al-Ikhbariya TV, was killed by sniper fire near al-Daba'a military airport, just outside Qusayr, as she was covering an army assault on the airport. 

    The Syria crisis began in March 2011, and many people, including large numbers of soldiers and security personnel, have been killed in the violence. 

    The Syrian government says the chaos is being orchestrated from outside the country, and there are reports that a very large number of the militants are foreign nationals. 

    Syrian President Bashar al-Assad said on May 23, “Syria is determined to tackle terrorism and those who support it regionally and globally, and to find a political solution to the crisis.” 

    IA/PR

    December 21, 2012

    Free war-zone journalist Austin Tice

    By Marcus Brauchli and Anders Gyllenhaal, Published: December 21

    Marcus Brauchli is executive editor of The Washington Post, and Anders Gyllenhaal is vice president for news at McClatchy. They can be reached at brauchlim@washpost.com and agyllenhaal@mcclatchy.com.

    Austin Tice was well on his way to a law degree when the pull of journalism got to be too much for him. Fascinated with the Middle East and frustrated with news coverage he saw as often too shallow, he decided to see if he could do better.

    “It always drove Austin crazy when they’d say on the news, this couldn’t be confirmed because it’s too difficult to report,’’ Marc Tice, Austin’s father, told us. “He thought, ‘I’ve got the ability to do this. I can get in there and get these stories.’ ’’

    Four months ago, Tice was captured in Syria, where he had been delivering on that commitment with fresh and compelling freelance reports that were regularly published in The Post and McClatchy newspapers. While the wait for news on his whereabouts drags on, we want to make the case for why this work is so vital and why he should be released.

    We also want to draw attention to the delicate role of foreign reporters in places such as Syria. Understanding the savage tableau of war helps citizens, societies and governments make judgments and set policies that affect millions of people. At its best, journalism may save lives by making the costs and consequences of war more vivid.

    Inevitably, journalists take risks when they cover wars. We have both lost friends and colleagues in battle; one of us has a brother, a photographer, who was wounded seriously 20 years ago in Sarajevo. But the risks should not include kidnapping, torture or murder.

    And yet, so far this year, according to the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists, 67 journalists have been killed in direct relation to their work.

    In Syria, the number killed in combat or murdered this year is 28, a rate that the committee says approaches the worst annual tally of the Iraq war. Foreign and Syrian reporters alike have been killed. Even the head of Libya’s state-run news agency, SANA, was assassinated. This week, five days after they were kidnapped, NBC’s chief foreign correspondent, Richard Engel, and his crew escaped following a gunfight between their captors and rebels.

    Many of the journalists at risk in conflict zones today aren’t on staff at big, traditional news organizations. The uprisings and revolutions in the Middle East have attracted freelance journalists who don’t need mainstream news outlets to reach an audience. New technologies enable them to upload video directly to YouTube or report battles in real time to followers on Twitter or Facebook.

    Like many freelancers, Tice followed an unusual path to foreign reporting, an assignment that can take decades to earn on a big newspaper’s staff. A captain in the Marines who served tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, Tice left the service and enrolled in Georgetown University’s law school. It was just after his second year when he decided to give in to the tug of journalism that dated to high school.

    Equipped with cameras, an exquisite writing talent and an instinct for finding his way to the center of things, Tice slipped over the Turkish border into Syria in May. At one point, he managed to get by checkpoints in Damascus by dressing as a woman despite his 6-foot-3, 200-pound frame.

    His work has been courageous and professional, contributing to the montage of truth that has shaped the world’s understanding of the Syrian conflict. Although he traveled mostly with the rebels, Tice was as interested in one side as the other, in capturing opposing viewpoints and casualties.

    He focused on how the rebels were gaining momentum over the summer. He also helped to break the news in August that rebels were carrying out executions and torture. He was often on the front lines of the conflict. He celebrated his 31st birthday, he noted in his last Twitter post before his capture in mid-August, to the sounds of bombs landing nearby.

    Information on his captivity, and even on who is holding him, has been hard to confirm despite the constant efforts of his family, our news organizations and other contacts in the United States and other governments.

    Tice entered Syria without a visa, as have the majority of those covering this story. As he enters his fifth month of captivity, he has long since paid the price if this is seen as a violation of the country’s borders.

    We believe his own story makes the best argument for his release.

    He surely has met the high standards of quality and fairness he first thought about back in Afghanistan. Austin Tice has served both Syria and the wider world with reporting that cannot exist without such dedicated journalists. Those responsible for his capture and detention have a moral obligation to return him to his family, his friends and his work.

    Read more from Tice and Syria:

    Austin Tice and Liz Sly: Syrian rebels still hopeful as government regains initiative in Damascus

    Austin Tice: In Syria, an oasis from war


    December 13, 2012 

    Interview with Christiane Amanpour


    By Claire Calzonetti, Samuel Burke & Mick Krever CNN

    “I don’t have a death wish; I have a life wish,” Austin Tice wrote after his third month in Syria, working as a freelance journalist. “Coming here to Syria is the greatest thing I’ve ever done, and it’s the greatest feeling of my life.”

    That was in July. A month later he was kidnapped, and is still missing today.

    His parents, Marc and Debra Tice, say they are “absolutely” certain Austin is still alive. They sat down for a rare interview with CNN’s Christiane Amanpour on Thursday to explain their son’s story, and plead for his safe return.

    Thirty-one-year-old Austin Tice disappeared in mid-August while reporting outside Damascus. His writing had been featured in the Washington Post and McClatchy newspapers.

    In what would be the final Tweet before his capture in August, the Texas native appeared to be in good spirits. On August 11 he wrote, “Spent the day at an FSA pool party with music by [Taylor Swift]. They even brought me whiskey. Hands down, best birthday ever.”

    The Tices talked almost daily with their son, then suddenly they heard nothing from him for weeks.

    After an agonizing wait, a video of the journalist surfaced on YouTube in September. The 47-second video showed Tice, obviously in distress, being led up a hill by armed and masked men chanting “Allahu Akbar” – God is the greatest.

    Debra Tice said she went into physical shock when she saw the video, but also realized what it meant: Austin was still alive.

    Tice’s father told Amanpour that “No parents, no family should see their son, their child, their sibling, in those circumstances,” but he hopes the video might ultimately lead to contact with whomever is holding their son.

    Analysts say the video looks staged and that there are reasons to believe the men in the video are not the Islamic extremists they purport to be.

    The U.S. State Department believes Tice is actually being held by the Syrian regime, a charge Damascus denies.

    Tice’s parents say they do not want to speculate about who is holding him – they just want their son back home.

    Debra Tice described Austin, the eldest of her seven children, as a passionate man. She tried to explain, for a mother, the seemingly inexplicable: Why her son would go to one of the most violent countries on earth.

    “He likes to know what's going on in the world,” she said, and he was frustrated by the lack first-hand reporting from Syria’s civil war. He told her, “‘I'm someone that can go. I can face that danger because this story is important.’”

    On the chance that Austin sees the interview his parents spoke directly to him: “Austin, we love you … we’re doing everything we can to get you safely home.”

    The Tice family has established a website to help find their son: http://www.austinticefamily.com/

    December 12, 2012 

    Interview with Alhurra (Arabic)

    YouTube Video


    November 18, 2012

    Interview with RT TV (Arabic)

    http://arabic.rt.com/news_all_news/news/600075/

    Our thanks to RT TV's Arabic language service for conducting and broadcasting this interview, which was done during our trip to Beirut seeking support for Austin's release.


    November 12, 2012

    Transcript of Press Conference at Beirut Press Club


    Marc:  Thank you for coming here today.  My name is Marc Tice, and this is my wife Debra.  We are the parents of Austin Tice, a journalist who was last working in Syria and with whom we’ve had no contact since August 13. We’re here today to appeal for information about Austin. If anyone who hears this has any information about Austin and especially what we can do to bring him home, please tell us. We have a website where you can send us an email: austinticefamily.com.

    We know we are not the only family who has suffered. Austin’s silence has given us some understanding of the anxieties and uncertainties that so many families in this part of the world are experiencing. We love our son. He is a fine man, a good journalist and we want everything to be well with him. We ask whoever is holding Austin to treat him well, to keep him safe, and to return him to us as soon as possible.  Again, anyone who hears this and can help us find Austin, talk with him and get him back safely, please send us an email information@austintice.com.

    Now Debi would like to say a few words:

    Debi: Thank you all for coming, we really appreciate it and we count on your support. Austin is the oldest of our seven children. We are a big close family. We have all felt a terrible void in this prolonged silence. With the approaching holiday season we are even more dismayed by the empty chair at our family table. We miss Austin’s knowing smile, his big laugh and his great story telling. The energetic joy in our home has been greatly diminished by his absence.  Austin loves being the big brother, he hugs and lifts his sister off the floor, and he constantly challenges his brothers to excellence. When they play games, a great and rare joy is expressed in besting Austin.

    Austin is a cherished son and beloved brother.  If he were your son and your brother I ask, what would you do to find him and return him to your family?  Who would you most want to speak to?  We are asking that anyone who can put us in touch with information about Austin - please go to our website, austinticefamily.com, and contact us.  We love Austin dearly and will do anything to have him safely return to our family.

    And now I’d like to speak directly to my son, in case he can hear this. My precious Austin, I love you dearly. I hold you tenderly in my heart and I pray for you constantly. Your brothers and sisters love you and think of you every minute. Be assured we will do all we can to bring you safely home.

    Questions (transcribed as closely as possible)

    Q:  When did you last hear of him, how long was he in Syria?  Were you in touch with him and where did he go in from?

    Marc: The last contact we had from him was on August 13. What we want more than anything else is contact with him now and that’s really what we’re asking for and of course to bring him home. We emailed, we chatted, used social media to speak to him very frequently while he was in Syria so when we stopped hearing from him we became very concerned.

    Q:  Where did he enter Syria?

    Debra: From Turkey

    Q:  So why are you here?

    Debra:  We are appealing to everyone and anyone for information about Austin and how we can bring him home.

    Q:  Who have you reached out to in Syrian government and what has been their response.

    Marc:  We have been in touch directly and indirectly with people in the Syrian government. They have indicated to us they don’t know where Austin is and we are reaching out to everyone that we can get in touch with to try to get their help in determining where Austin is and what we need to do bring him home.

    Debra:  Someone knows where our son is and we are beseeching that person to reach out to us and allow us to speak with him.

    Q:  Did you contact Turkish and Lebanese authorities?

    Marc:  We have a number of friends who are helping us and we have reached out to many of those authorities and will continue to do so and that is one reason why we are here, to reach out to anyone who can give us information.

    Q:  The Syrian authorities deny they have him, have you had any contact with any armed gang who are asking for money or any indication the Syrians are looking for him?

    Debra:  We really have no idea who is holding our son and that is our main purpose, to try to make contact with our son, to try to make contact and bring him home. We have no idea who is holding him.

    Marc:  We are contacting as best we can every group, every organization to try to get an answer to those questions.

    Q:  Has anyone told you they are looking for him whether political religious leaders etc?

    Debra:  We are profoundly grateful and humbled and amazed by the outpouring of assistance and support that we have received. There are many people who are working and looking and of course all over the world there are people praying with me.

    Marc:  That is correct. He has been in Syria since he entered in May and right now we have no idea exactly where he is or who he is with, and again our focus is to try to reach out and hope someone can contact us with information about what we need to do. We would like to make it clear that we will do whatever we can do to safely bring him home.

    Q: Does this include paying ransom?

    Marc:  We have no idea what will be required and we would like to know from whoever is holding him what it is we need to do.

    Debra:  We believe he was in Daraya when he disappeared, and we are prepared to do whatever is necessary, whatever appears to be most beneficial in order to return our son.

    Q:  Did the video give you any clues?

    Marc:  No. We are hoping for some contact that will let us know who has him and what we need to do.

    Q:  Is the US Embassy or US officials involved?

    Debra:  We’ve had appropriate and amazing support in our search for our son and our decision to come to this area was driven by the fact that we want to expand our efforts and put ourselves in the position of being available for contacts.

    Q: Has the free Syrian army contacted you? Are you staying here? Will you go to Syria?

    Marc:  We have not been contacted by anyone. We are here this week and if it would be productive for us to come back again, or go anywhere else for that matter; we’re willing to do that.

    Q:  What can journalists do?

    Marc:  The response from other journalists here in the region and honestly around the world has been humbling. It’s an amazing group of people. We have such an appreciation for their support and care. We would ask any journalist, by the nature of their work they speak to many people…so we would ask that they ask for information about Austin and if they receive any information please contact us.

    Q:  Do you think after you get your son back you will detach yourself from Syria?

    Debra:  Sometimes I feel that maybe I have a Middle Eastern heart so I think that my admiration for the culture and my love for the people and my enjoyment of the food is going to be a lifelong attachment.

    Marc:  I would say it’s impossible for an experience like this not to stay with you. We want no one to experience the kind of pain and longing and uncertainty that we and others are experiencing.

    Before you leave…

    Let me ask whoever is holding Austin, please treat him well, keep him safe, and return him to us as soon as you can.

    Thank you.


    November 09, 2012

    SKeyes Statements | Lebanon

     
    Kidnapped Journalist Austin Tice’s Parents to Hold a Press Conference in Beirut
    November 9, 2012
    Source: Beirut - SKeyes

    Marc and Debra Tice, American freelance journalist Austin Tice’s parents, who was kidnapped in Syria on August 12, 2012, will hold a press conference on Monday, November 12, 2012, at 11 am at the Press Club in Furn el Chebbak, to talk about their son’s disappearance and urge relevant parties to release him.

    On August 12, Austin Tice went missing in the Rif Dimashq Governorate, after weeks of covering the fighting between the Free Syrian Army and the Syrian government forces. On September 26, a video showing Tice blindfolded and surrounded by a group of armed men wearing the traditional Afghan clothes was released on YouTube. The kidnappers’ identity as well as Tice’s location could not be determined and his fate remains unknown. On October 8, Tice’s parents called on the Syrian government to help release their son.

    Tice works as a freelance correspondent for The Washington Post and other news agencies such as McClatchy, CBC News, Al-Jazeera English and Agence France-Press among others.

    The SKeyes Center for Media and Cultural Freedom invites all audiovisual, print and electronic media, whether Lebanese, Arab or international, to cover the press conference on Monday, in order to contribute to Tice’s release and that of all Syrian and foreign journalists detained by the Syrian regime or the armed opposition.

    For more information, please contact Ayman Mhanna, SKeyes Center Executive Director, by e-mail (amhanna@skeyesmedia.org) or by phone (+9611397331). You can also contact Philip Elwood, the media advisor for the Tice family, by e-mail (pelwood@levick.com) or by phone (+12025072229).

    October 05, 2012 

    http://arabic.rt.com/news_all_news/news/596233/

    Thank you to RT TV's Arabic language service for broadcasting our statement appealing for information on Austin's condition and situation, and for his release.