Passport

After U.S. Negotiations, Assad Releases American Photographer

An American held in Syria since 2012 has been released.

TOPSHOT - Syrian President Bashar al-Assad gestures during an exclusive interview with AFP in the capital Damascus on February 11, 2016.  / AFP / JOSEPH EID        (Photo credit should read JOSEPH EID/AFP/Getty Images)
TOPSHOT - Syrian President Bashar al-Assad gestures during an exclusive interview with AFP in the capital Damascus on February 11, 2016. / AFP / JOSEPH EID (Photo credit should read JOSEPH EID/AFP/Getty Images)

Kevin Dawes, a freelance photographer from California, was released by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s government Friday after extensive negotiations with the U.S. government.

Dawes, 33, had disappeared in northern Syria in 2012, after planning a trip there based largely on contacts he had developed over the Internet. He had previously traveled to Libya during the summer of 2011, embedding with rebel militias in the city of Misrata as they fought with forces loyal to Muammar al-Qaddafi to record video footage of the urban warfare.

In a statement Friday, State Department spokesman John Kirby confirmed that a U.S. citizen was released in Syria, although he did not specifically confirm that it was Dawes.

“The United States continues to work through every possible means to ensure the safe release of U.S. citizens reported missing or taken hostage in Syria,” he said, adding that Washington worked with the Czech Republic to ensure his release.

“We continue to work through our Czech protecting power in Syria to get information on the welfare and whereabouts of Austin Tice and other U.S. citizens missing and detained in Syria,” he said, referencing a former Marine Corps officer and freelance journalist who was kidnapped in Syria in 2012. “We appreciate the efforts of the Czech mission on behalf of U.S. persons.”

Fatima Khan, the mother of another prisoner in Assad’s jails, Abbas Khan, told reporter James Harkin that her son had been kept in a cell near Dawes.

“Since there was no one else who spoke English, they’d begun a conversation,” Harkin wrote in a January profile of Dawes for GQ. “Dawes was in a bad state; he seemed like he wanted to die and may have said as much. Before long the guards came in and beat them both for talking, after which their communication came to an end.”

Photo credit: JOSEPH EID/AFP/Getty Images

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