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Vermont Journalist Talks About Being Kidnapped In Syria

We've been following local journalist and former UH student Austin Tice's story since he left for Syria earlier this year. He disappeared on August 13th and the only update on him has been a YouTube video with his captors. To get some insight on what might be happening with Tice, Edel Howlin spoke to another journalist who was also kidnapped in Syria.



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Pathik Root is a journalist from Vermont who found himself in Alexandria, Egypt around the summer of 2010. He was there to study Arabic, but after the revolution broke out he and some other students got transferred to Syria. Root was assured that because it was a police state at the time, it was probably one of the safer places to be.

That was until March 18th of 2011. The following audio isn’t crystal clear as we spoke to Root on a cell phone in Yemen.

“It was the first big Friday, the first Friday that protests really happened and I was meeting a friend of mine in the old city and I had a few hours to kill. And so I was wandering around the old city and I ended up stumbling on a protest.”

He followed the crowd of protestors for awhile before he lost them. Just as he was turning back into the old city, he spotted them again. He decided to get a quick snap of what was happening on his phone. 

Root says he couldn’t have had it out of his pocket for more than ten seconds before he was apprehended by what he believes to be the secret police.

“They took me to a suburban in a back alley and put my head down on the seat and about five minutes later, we were in the prison where I spent the next two weeks.”

Root never once saw an official uniform. His captors thought him to be either a CIA agent or a journalist, not believing that he was just a student. They threatened to torture him, but luckily he was untouched.

Meanwhile, work was being done at home to get him released.

“It was a lot of pressure from the U.S. and my Senator got involved. My parents were extremely, extremely active and so it was a lot of diplomatic pressure and I think some back channel stuff.”

The ironic part was Root decided to become a journalist after he was released and he just arrived in Yemen to report on what’s happening there. He says his experience in Syria opened his eyes to the Arab situation and he met others who’d been kidnapped but haven’t been as fortunate as he has to come away unscathed.

He hopes Austin Tice’s situation is similar to his, but he’s aware it’s difficult to judge when it’s unclear as to who his captors are.

“Seems like this might be the work of fringe supporters of the Assad government. I don’t know. The Syrian government had targeted journalists definitely. It’s very likely that the Syrian government knows about it.”

Chances are there won’t be any further information on Austin Tice unless it’s either another anonymous video, or there’s news that he’s been released.

To try and keep him forefront in people’s thoughts his mom, Debra Tice is posting daily on Twitter. Other followers use the hashtag #FreeAustinTice. We’ll continue to follow Austin Tice’s story at KUHF News.


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