When Samir Kassab last headed to Syria before being kidnapped in October 2013, he crossed from southern Turkey to northern Syria in a path that he had taken before, in order to work on a report about the Eid El-Adha celebrations in the city of Aleppo.
In a brief piece of breaking news shortly after, Sky News Arabia – for which he and his colleague who disappeared with him, Mauritanian reporter Isaac Mooctar, worked – announced: “Contact with our crew in Syria has been lost since October 15, 2013.”
Since then, his afflicted family members have been protesting and demanding more effort from the Lebanese authorities to locate him, but they’ve only managed to receive bits and pieces of news about him, mostly rumors.
Bits and Pieces
In 2014, French journalist Nicolas Hénin was freed after spending 10 months in captivity in Syria. With him, he brought back news that was equally hopeful and terrifying.
After his release, Hénin said that Samir Kassab was his cell neighbor in Aleppo, in ISIS’s captivity. This was the first real lead in the Kassab case since contact with him was lost.
The second lead came in the same year, prior to the kidnapping of Lebanese soldiers in Arsal. This time, the information was disclosed by the director-general of General Security, Maj. Gen. Abbas Ibrahim.
Ibrahim said that he had indicators that Samir Kassab was still alive and that there was work in progress on his case. However, the kidnapping of the Lebanese troops, later on, put a halt to the progress.
In 2017, after the remains of the martyred soldiers were retrieved, Ibrahim said that ISIS was asked about Kassab, but that the terrorist organization denied having him.
For the past 7 years, Kassab’s case has been shrouded in mystery and occasional rumors of him being transferred from one area to another, without any solid evidence leading to his location or indicating his fate.
Considering that Spain, Denmark, and France were able to liberate journalists of theirs held hostage in Syria, the director of the SKeyes Center for Media and Cultural Freedom, Ayman Mhanna, has called for the Lebanese government to coordinate with these countries for help on the case.
As presidential sources told The Daily Star in 2018, President Michel Aoun and then-Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil spoke to Turkey, the US, Russia, Syria, and international organizations in an attempt to uncover details about the Lebanese hostage, but to no avail.
To Kassab’s pained family, the Lebanese authorities must exert additional effort.
“That your beloved one is taken hostage by fighters is the worst thing you can imagine. I do not wish this to anyone, not even my worst enemies,” Razan Hamdan, Samir Kassab’s fiancée, told SKeyes Center for Media and Cultural Freedom.
“In this country, you need to convince the government to do more while, in other countries, the government [itself] offers to help release the hostages,” she added.
On its part, the Kassab family continues to hold regular protests to attract media attention to the 7-year-old case, in hopes to finally get an answer as to what happened to Samir and bring him back home “alive or dead” as the 2019 campaign for his case put it.