In a brief video statement directed to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi al-Quraishi al-Hussaini, the Islamic state leader, the mother of U.S. journalist Steven Sotloff appeals to his heart. Shirley Sotloff asks for the caliph al-Hussaini to release her son, who had been captured by the Islamic state last year on the Syrian-Turkish border.
In an attempt to prevent the sacrifice of her son, Mrs. Sotloff uses several strategies. She acknowledges the authority of al-Hussaini and that a caliph has the power to grant amnesty. She states that her son has no control over the circumstances of world power. She refers to the tenet of Islam in which “no individual should be held responsible for the sins of others” and she mentions the name of the Prophet Muhammad [Peace Be Upon Him (PBUH)], who “protected people of the Book.”
Steven Sotloff, 31, published articles on the Middle East in Time, National Interest, and Foreign Policy. The journalist went missing in 2013 while covering the now three-year-old civil war in Syria, which has caused unrest in the region. This conflict has drawn many militant Islamist groups, including Hezbollah, which is backed by Iran, and al-Qaeda affiliates.
Sotloff’s life had recently been threatened publicly by the Islamic State, saying that he could be next in line for execution if Obama does not stop the military operations in northern Iraq. Throughout the video, Mrs. Sotloff’s tone is moderated. Rather than accusing her son’s Islamic State captors in her appeal, she pleads to the heart of its leader. The Islamic State decapitated James Foley on August 20th, which made world news.
The militant leaders state that Foley’s decapitation was in retribution for U.S. punitive air strikes in Iraq. The response of Foley’s family was to implore the militants to spare the lives of those who are still captive. In the videoed execution of James Foley last Wednesday, Sotloff is pictured kneeling beside Foley.
The statement issued by Foley’s family said that the journalists are innocent and do not have control over U.S. government policy. A third American who has been held by the Islamic State is a 26-year-old female doing humanitarian work in Syria. The militant group has demanded over $6 million for her release.
On Sunday another U.S. journalist, Peter Curtis, 45, was released after being held for two years by a different militant group operating in Syria, the Nusra Front. The group is another affiliate of al-Qaeda in Syria. Earlier this year it had split from the Islamic State. Curtis’ release had been negotiated for humanitarian reasons by the monarchy government of Qatar.
The Islamic State had been formerly known as ISIS, an acronym for “the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.” The group now has 10,000 fighters and the U.S. is calling it “a credible alternative to al-Qaeda” and issued warning about potential threat to the United States.
Meanwhile, the White House has issued a statement that the U.S. will not back down. Rather, it will continue its offensive, citing a commitment to stay the course against any group that harms “our people.” President Obama said that justice will be done and the U.S. will do what is necessary to capture those who harm Americans.
It is uncommon for the family of an American held captive by militants to speak publicly because of the potential threat to the individual. In pleading with the leader of the Islamic state, Steven Sotloff’s mother appeals to him for a change of heart. In her videoed statement, shown below, Mrs. Sotloff is making an effort towards a humanitarian and safe resolution for her son.
By Fern Remedi-Brown