Austin Tice, the veteran Marine captain who fought in Iraq and Afghanistan, then put down his gun and picked up a pen to cover the intensifying civil war in Syria, has now been missing for six years.
But his parents and his six siblings firmly believe he is still alive, and their optimism is shared by Reporters Without Borders, a number of news organizations with ties to Tice and the U.S. government.
Tice disappeared in Darayya, Syria, near Damascus, in August 2012 after being detained at a checkpoint. During his summer break before his final year at Georgetown University Law School he was working as a freelance journalist, telling the story of the civil war from the perspective of ordinary Syrian residents. He filed award-winning stories for CBS News, McClatchy Newspapers, the Washington Post and other media outlets.
In September 2012, a short proof-of-life video was released of Tice in captivity, blindfolded and bound, as armed men led him down a mountain path. But it’s never been clear whether he’s being held by forces backing President Bashar al-Assad, the Syrian government itself, or some other group.
His parents, Mark and Debra Tice, have long been working to secure his release and to keep his captivity in the public eye. During an appearance on NBC’s “The Today Show” Aug. 14, they reiterated their belief that he is still alive, and said they have met with officials in the White House and at the State Department who share that sentiment.
Tice’s family and friends joined media colleagues at the National Press Club Tuesday evening to mark the anniversary of his disappearance. The event featured an exhibit of photos that he had taken of children in Syria.
“Six years after his disappearance, we are reminded of the dangers reporters endure in order to shed light on the dark corners of the world, uncovering truth others would rather keep hidden,” Fred Ryan, publisher of The Washington Post and a speaker at the anniversary event, told Stars and Stripes prior to the event. “This global tragedy has caused an unimaginable amount of pain for Austin’s friends and family, particularly his parents, who have been relentless in their focus on his return. It is time for him to be released without further delay.”
Neil is a former US Army Captain and served operational deployments in South Korea and Afghanistan. He is currently an Editorial Fellow at the Military Times.