As Hoyas prepare to return home for the holidays and be with family and friends, we must remember those who are not as fortunate as we are to enjoy the spoils of the season.
This situation is the case for Austin Tice (SFS ’02), a freelance journalist, who remains captive in Syria more than five years after being taken hostage by a yet unidentified group.
This editorial board previously brought attention to Tice’s plight in 2016. Since then, CIA officials had reportedly set up a back channel with Syria’s National Bureau intelligence service to request assistance in finding Tice.
But cooperation ended in April, after the United States responded to a nerve-gas attack carried out by the Syrian government through a missile strike. In lieu of back-channel negotiations, it is critical to keep Tice’s name in the media, in public consciousness and alive in the Georgetown community to sustain momentum for his case.
Tice is a not only a fellow Hoya, but he also embodies the values Georgetown instills in us every day and is a testament to the university’s educational mission.
After serving seven years in Iraq and Afghanistan as an infantry officer in the U.S. Marine Corps, Tice entered Syria on May 23, 2012. At this point, the situation on the ground in Syria was unknown to most Americans, as major U.S. news outlets had already pulled their journalists out of the country due to safety concerns.
Tice went to Syria with the intent to use his stories to portray the dire nature of the conflict and to raise awreness of the human costs of the then-escalating war by bringing attention to the stories behind the despairing mortality statistics that dominated U.S. headlines.
Tice selflessly risked his life for people he had never met, committing himself to the broader quest for social justice, which is at the core of Georgetown’s Jesuit values. He is an inspiration, not only to student journalists, but to all Hoyas looking to take make a meaningful contribution to the world.
Tice’s character should compel us even more to keep his memory alive.
In 2016, this editorial board called students to support The Washington Post — for which Tice freelanced — in publicizing his case. More than a year after that editorial, the board commends the student activism that has taken place on behalf of Tice.
Whether through protests at the White House, participation in public ceremonies, or letter-writing campaigns and events on campus, Tice has remained present in the Georgetown community over the course of his captivity.
Most importantly, these efforts have not been in vain. Less than a year ago, a group of Georgetown students, alongside journalism program Director Barbara Feinman Todd and Associate Vice President for Federal Relations Scott Fleming, delivered a petition signed by 1,000 members of the Georgetown community calling the Trump administration to take a strong stance in Tice’s case. Marc and Debra Tice, Tice’s parents, recently informed this group that the petition was presented to members of the National Security Council, who used it to demonstrate support for him at the U.S. State Department.
As we take a break from our classes, jobs and other pressures to reflect on our gifts and blessings, let us also reflect on how we can help Tice return home, be by joining larger-scale movements like Reporters Without Borders’ #FreeAustinTice campaign, getting involved in events organized by Georgetown’s own journalism department, or gathering a group of students to pressure U.S. government officials to continue pushing for Tice’s return.
To Marc and Debra, we hope this holiday season renews the spirit of the fight for Tice’s release, and that in a matter of a year’s time, this paper can report his return.
Let us not forget him.
Correction: An earlier version of this editorial stated that more than 5,000 students had signed the petition sent to the State Department. The organizers had set this goal when they first announced the campaign but ultimately sent the petition after it reached 1,000 signatures.