JOHANNESBURG - SA photojournalist Mujahid Safodien says Islamophobia is the only reason Shiraaz Mohamed hasn't been rescued.
Mohamed was kidnapped by rebels in Syria's northern Darkush region nearly three years ago, while on assignment with South African relief group Gift of the Givers.
"Everybody assumes that he probably went to go join ISIS, but it's not. He was just a really good Muslim," said Safodien.
Safodien adds that Mohamed ended up in Syria because he needed to prove himself.
"This man went there to prove himself as a photojournalist. That's what black people have to do to break into this industry. Unfortunately, in this industry, you still have to prove yourself and that's where the danger comes in," he said.
Mohamed has warned that his living conditions have worsened since his last cry for help.
He also fears that he may soon be killed by his captors.
Since Mohamed's capture, multiple attempts to secure his release have failed - and now he's accusing a former Gift of the Givers volunteer of angering his captors.
"I need your help, please free me. Doctor Fekri Shabaan, these people are very angry with the way you are speaking to them, with the way you are doing the negotiations. My living conditions up until the last time you spoke to them was okay. My life has become very difficult. Please, I beg you, doctor, Fekri Shabaan please change the way you are negotiating with them," pleaded Mohamed.
Gift of the Givers founder Imtiaz Sooliman says Shabaan was dismissed in 2017.
Mohamed was captured just two days after disciplinary proceedings were instituted against Shabaan, and had been living with him in Syria.
His family are distraught - and his close friend and fellow photojournalist says talks to release him may have failed because of Islamophobia.
A senior official at the department of international relations confirmed they're in talks to release him, while the Gift of the Givers say they've withdrawn from the matter.