By Claire Calzonetti, Samuel Burke & Mick Krever CNN
“I don’t have a death wish; I have a life wish,” Austin Tice wrote after his third month in Syria, working as a freelance journalist. “Coming here to Syria is the greatest thing I’ve ever done, and it’s the greatest feeling of my life.”
That was in July. A month later he was kidnapped, and is still missing today.
His parents, Marc and Debra Tice, say they are “absolutely” certain Austin is still alive. They sat down for a rare interview with CNN’s Christiane Amanpour on Thursday to explain their son’s story, and plead for his safe return.
Thirty-one-year-old Austin Tice disappeared in mid-August while reporting outside Damascus. His writing had been featured in the Washington Post and McClatchy newspapers.
In what would be the final Tweet before his capture in August, the Texas native appeared to be in good spirits. On August 11 he wrote, “Spent the day at an FSA pool party with music by [Taylor Swift]. They even brought me whiskey. Hands down, best birthday ever.”
The Tices talked almost daily with their son, then suddenly they heard nothing from him for weeks.
After an agonizing wait, a video of the journalist surfaced on YouTube in September. The 47-second video showed Tice, obviously in distress, being led up a hill by armed and masked men chanting “Allahu Akbar” – God is the greatest.
Debra Tice said she went into physical shock when she saw the video, but also realized what it meant: Austin was still alive.
Tice’s father told Amanpour that “No parents, no family should see their son, their child, their sibling, in those circumstances,” but he hopes the video might ultimately lead to contact with whomever is holding their son.
Analysts say the video looks staged and that there are reasons to believe the men in the video are not the Islamic extremists they purport to be.
The U.S. State Department believes Tice is actually being held by the Syrian regime, a charge Damascus denies.
Tice’s parents say they do not want to speculate about who is holding him – they just want their son back home.
Debra Tice described Austin, the eldest of her seven children, as a passionate man. She tried to explain, for a mother, the seemingly inexplicable: Why her son would go to one of the most violent countries on earth.
“He likes to know what's going on in the world,” she said, and he was frustrated by the lack first-hand reporting from Syria’s civil war. He told her, “‘I'm someone that can go. I can face that danger because this story is important.’”
On the chance that Austin sees the interview his parents spoke directly to him: “Austin, we love you … we’re doing everything we can to get you safely home.”
The Tice family has established a website to help find their son: http://www.austinticefamily.com/