THE WAR in Syria is winding down, at least around Damascus, where journalist Austin Tice was kidnapped seven years ago by unknown abductors. Our determination to see him free is not winding down. He has lost seven years of freedom that cannot be replaced, but release would give him a chance to enjoy the precious years he has remaining. Whatever motives the kidnappers had in 2012 must have long dissipated. We appeal to them to bring this long nightmare to a close and set him free.
Mr. Tice, a former Marine captain, felt a calling to report on the war in Syria and followed his curiosity there. Some of his work appeared in The Post, and he was also published by McClatchy newspapers. Planning to leave Syria for Lebanon on Aug. 14, 2012, having just turned 31 years old, he got into a taxi in Darayya but never made it to the border. Five weeks later, a video emerged that showed him being held by a group of unidentified armed men. The title of the video was “Austin Tice is Alive.”
His parents, Debra and Marc Tice, said in a recent open letter, “Austin is alive, with the hope of once again walking free.” A $1 million reward offered by the FBI, which has since been matched by a coalition of media organizations, has prompted several new sources of information to come forward, his father said in December, without specifying the new information. The family has said there were no claims of responsibility or messages from the captors since the initial video. Recently, an American traveler, Sam Goodwin, who was detained by government forces in Syria, was released after nearly two months following mediation by a Lebanese general. While the details of the mediation are not known, the release should be taken as a sign of what is possible.
We can only guess what horrors Mr. Tice has been through. Terry Anderson, the Associated Press reporter who was kidnapped by Hezbollah in Beirut in March 1985, recalled in his memoir the mental stress of solitary confinement. “There is nothing to hold on to, no way to anchor my mind. I try praying, every day, sometimes for hours. But there’s nothing there, just a blankness. I’m talking to myself, not God.” But Mr. Anderson, also a Marine veteran, held tenaciously to the hope of release and eventually found support from other captives. Mr. Anderson was held longer than any other hostage of the Lebanon war, released in 1991 after 2,455 days in captivity.
Mr. Tice has now been held longer than Mr. Anderson. This is a grim benchmark for Mr. Tice and for his family. But Mr. Anderson’s story shows that human willpower can be an indomitable force against the most difficult odds. We hope Mr. Tice has also found such strength, and that those who seized him seven years ago will at last open the cell door and let him go.