Debra and Marc Tice have been living a nightmare for more than two years. Their son, freelance journalist Austin Tice has been missing in Syria since August 2012.
“It has just become what our life is, that’s just it,” Marc Tice said.
The only thing the family can say with certainty is that they do not know who is holding him captive and while the Obama administration claims it has been communicating with the families of missing Americans, the Tice family believes they remain in the dark.
A recent article in the French newspaper Le Figaro suggested that Austin had been seen alive in the custody of the Syrian government, and that negotiations were ongoing for his release. But the U.S. Department of State refuted most of those claims. Officials would only say they had been in periodic contact with the Syrian government to discuss a number of issues, including Austin Tice’s disappearance.
“We, from the very beginning, urged our government to be in communication with the Syrian government just to elicit their help and support,” Marc Tice said. “We think it should have happened and started a long time ago. We’re happy that it’s happening now, can’t do anything about the past.”
Despite the lack of concrete information, Marc Tice remains convinced his son is still alive and not being held by ISIS.
“We don’t have any concrete evidence of [Austin being held by ISIS],” Marc Tice said. “We don’t have any proof of life or anything specifically to hold onto, but we do have assurances that we think are knowledgeable enough and credible enough that have enough experience and information about what’s going on in the region that we have to trust that as well.”
A video of Austin Tice emerged shortly after he was last heard from. He is seen blindfolded and being led by captors, but no one has claimed responsibility for his kidnapping.
Some experts say if Austin was being held by ISIS or al-Qaida, the groups would have said so. That may offer some consolation to the family, especially after the murders of journalists James Foley and Luke Somers at the hands of those groups.
“The bottom line is that…if, say, a European citizen were missing in the United States, their family would call on the United States government and the authorities here to do everything they could to find the missing person, and we feel like it is the same thing,” Marc Tice said. “Obviously it is much more complicated because of the conflict going on there, but the fact of the matter is the Syrian government is still the Syrian government. They have the resources and abilities in Syria to do something like find a missing person.”
To keep pressure on U.S. officials and the Syrian government, Tice’s parents, along with the group Reporters Without Borders launched a new awareness campaign in March.
The Global Center for Journalism and Democracy is participating in the new campaign. In fact, GCJD has continued to bring attention to Austin’s plight since the Houston native went missing.
His father, meanwhile, is holding onto hope.
“We are confident that he is going to get home safely,” Marc Tice said. “We just have to do anything we can every day until he does.”