Statement from the family of Peter Theo Curtis, an American journalist who had been detained by rebels in Syria and was freed Sunday after nearly two years in captivity.

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August 24, 2014

Peter Theo Curtis, a published author and freelance journalist from Boston and Vermont who writes under the name Theo Padnos, was released today after more than 22 months in captivity in Syria. The Curtis family is deeply grateful to the governments of the United States and Qatar and to the many individuals, private and public, who helped negotiate the release of our son, brother and cousin.

“My heart is full at the extraordinary, dedicated, incredible people, too many to name individually, who have become my friends and have tirelessly helped us over these many months,” said Theo’s mother, Nancy Curtis, of Cambridge, Mass. “Please know that we will be eternally grateful.”

The White House said Monday that the U.S. did not pay a ransom for the release of Peter Theo Curtis, an American journalist held hostage for nearly two years by an al-Qaeda-linked group in Syria. (

Nancy Curtis asked for privacy in the immediate aftermath of her son’s release. . . .

“We are so relieved that Theo is healthy and safe and that he is finally headed home after his ordeal, but we are also deeply saddened by the terrible, unjustified killing last week of his fellow journalist, Jim Foley, at the hands of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, ISIS,” Nancy said.

“I have gotten to know the Foley family during these many long months of uncertainty and worry, and have seen Diane Foley’s bravery and her heroic efforts firsthand, efforts that helped rally the spirits of the families of all the journalists and others being held captive. We appeal to the captors of the remaining hostages to release them in the same humanitarian spirit that prompted Theo’s release. While the family is not privy to the exact terms that were negotiated, we were repeatedly told by representatives of the Qatari government that they were mediating for Theo’s release on a humanitarian basis without the payment of money,” Nancy said.

She added: “My entire focus right now is on helping the other families of those still being held in Syria, and on taking care of my son.”

The family believes that Theo, 45, was captured shortly after he crossed into Syria in October 2012 and has been held since then by the militant group Jabhat al-Nusra or by splinter groups allied with Jabhat al-Nusra.

“Theo has a deep concern and regard for the people of Syria, which is why he returned during the war. He wanted to help others and to give meaning and to bear witness to their struggles,” Nancy added. “I am very fortunate that I do not have to tell his whole story. He eventually will be able to do so himself.”

Theo was born Peter Theophilus Eaton Padnos in Atlanta, Ga., where his father, Michael Padnos, who is now a writer living in Paris, was working as a lawyer. Theo graduated from Middlebury College in Vermont, has a Ph.D. in comparative literature from the University of Massachusetts and is fluent in French and Arabic. He also speaks German and Russian. He first became interested in writing about disaffected youth while working as a teacher in the Vermont prison system, resulting in his first book, “My Life [Had] Stood a Loaded Gun.”

While working as a journalist in Yemen, Theo became interested in the stories of the many disaffected young men from the West coming to study Islam and he eventually wrote about them in his book, “Undercover Muslim,” published in the United Kingdom. Theo changed his legal name to Peter Theo Curtis after publication of that book to make it easier to travel in the Arab world, although he continued to work as a journalist, writing under the name Theo Padnos.

He grew to love Syria and its people a decade ago while studying Arabic and Russian in Damascus.