- American photographer Kevin Patrick Dawes Returns Home
- Syria held him for over three years
- He was feared dead for a while
Freelance photographer Kevin Patrick Dawes was released by Syrian authorities on Friday. The 33-year-old photographer from San Diego was detained in Syria in 2012 after entering the country by way of Turkey, according to U.S. officials. His release was confirmed by State Department spokesman John Kirby, who stated:
“We can confirm and welcome the news that a U.S. citizen was released by Syrian authorities.”
Dawes is one of many American citizens who disappeared in 2012 during the Syrian Civil War. He was held captive for nearly four years by President Bashar Al-Assad’s regime in Damascus. His exact location during that time period is unknown. The last correspondence from Dawes came in October 2012, prior to his imprisonment. He was assumed dead by friends and family until recently. In the few months leading up to his release Dawes was allowed to call family members and receive care packages. This communication gave hope to relatives, as well as the U.S. government, that the Syrian government was considering releasing him.
Dawes displayed little fear of military conflict before his internment. He embarked on his journey as a photographer but later transitioned into several different roles. He served as a medical aid worker in Libya and eventually armed himself with a rifle and began working as a “counter-sniper” in response to medical aid workers being targeted by troops under the rule of Muammar Gaddafi’s government. Dawes explained his decision to take up arms during an interview with NPR, stating:
“It was at that point we decided we had no choice. It was either this, or perish from here.”
American officials negotiated for months for the photographers release. The exact details of this agreement have not been disclosed. It is not clear whether the U.S. officials communicated directly with the Syrian regime or used an intermediary source as a point of contact. However, many sources are reporting that the Czech Republic, the Russian Government and Sectary of State John Kerry all played an integral part in the U.S. citizen being released into American custody.
There was little coverage of Dawes’ abduction in 2012 when he was first declared “missing”. However, his recent release is garnering national attention. It is being used to bring awareness to other missing American citizens, such as Austin Tice. Tice, a Houston Texas native, went missing in August of 2012. Much like Dawes, Tice was covering the Syrian Civil War. Approximately one month after his disappearance a video was released of Tice, blindfolded and surrounded by armed men. In the video Tice is heard muttering the words “oh Jesus” but has not been heard from since.
Mark Toner, Deputy Spokesperson for the Department of State, said he is not aware whether or not the Syrian government received anything in return for releasing the U.S. citizen on Friday. To his knowledge there was no “tit-for-tat” exchange. Toner was able to disclose that American officials are continuing to work with Czech officials in Syria to obtain information that will hopefully lead to the release of other missing and detained U.S. Citizens in Syria.