Ten years after American journalist Austin Tice went missing in Syria, his family is still waiting for the US government to take action. Keep an eye on
Tice, a freelance journalist for CBS News, The Washington Post, and McClatchy, was kidnapped near Damascus on Aug. 14, 2012, while reporting on the Syrian civil war, becoming one of the longest held American hostages.
A short video posted on YouTube and the Facebook page of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad supporters showed a distressed Tice blindfolded with his apparent captors. He had not been seen since.
Tice’s mother, Debra, has never doubted that her son is still alive, despite the fact that no one has ever claimed responsibility for his disappearance.
“I’ve never wavered. I’m not wavering now,” she told CBS News in an interview earlier this week. “There’s no reason not to believe that he’s waiting and hoping and dreaming and planning to walk free.”
She has repeatedly asked the US government to do more to bring her son, a Marine veteran with “a great laugh” and a “big personality,” home, as she has done for the last decade.
“The US government has worked very hard to persuade me that they are working on it,” she explained. “Don’t tell me, is my response. Please demonstrate.”
Debra and Marc Tice, Tice’s parents, met with President Biden at the White House in May after long pleading for a presidential meeting. In that meeting, Mr. Biden tasked his national security adviser Jake Sullivan and the National Security Council with “figuring out what they want,” according to Debra Tice.
“The president of the United States said get a meeting, listen, find out what they want, work with them. He laid it out,” Debra Tice told CBS News in an interview this week.
Two Trump administration officials traveled to Syria two years ago to try to negotiate Tice’s release, but they were unsuccessful, and the Syrian government has never publicly acknowledged holding him captive or knowing where he is. Syrian officials told CBS News at the time that the Syrian government said no discussion about hostages could take place while US troops were in their country.
“I mean, when you go into a car dealership, do you ever pay the sticker price?” Debra Tice stated that she does not understand why the United States has not negotiated. “It irritates me greatly. It irritated me when they left after the first meeting and never returned.” Debra Tice also said, “I know that the United States government has not reached out directly to the Syrian government to request a meeting.”
However, the Biden administration claims that this is not the case. According to a senior administration official, the US “has engaged extensively in attempting to bring Austin home, including directly with Syrian officials and through third parties.”
“Unlike in other cases where Americans are detained abroad, the Syrian government has refused to convene senior-level meetings to discuss Austin’s case for many months, and it has never acknowledged holding him,” the official said. “We will continue to pursue all possible avenues to secure Austin’s release.”
The official did not say whether the US has attempted to engage the Syrian government about Tice since his parents met with Mr. Biden, but the president publicly called on Syria to come to the table in a statement released Wednesday.
In a statement issued Wednesday, Secretary of State Antony Blinken also stated that Special Presidential Envoy for Hostage Affairs Roger Carstens “will continue to engage with the Syrian government.”
The FBI has renewed its search for Tice’s whereabouts and has offered a $1 million reward.
Debra Tice says she tries not to think about what her son’s life has been like.
She’s had a lot of time to think about the barriers of US bureaucracy that have left her family feeling helpless, as well as her regret that she didn’t go to Damascus right away when Austin went missing.