thumb-2024-01-011-mansour-shouman-gaza This article is more than 4 months old

Family of Canadian Journalist Missing in Gaza Say Federal Government is Leaving Them in the Dark

Family says they’ve received few updates and no information from federal government despite public statements by Global Affairs Canada

The family of a Canadian journalist who has been missing for 10 days in Gaza says they have received no information about their loved one’s whereabouts despite Global Affairs Canada’s public statements suggesting they are in close contact with the family.

Mansour Shouman, a Canadian citizen who was documenting the bombing and siege of Gaza as an independent journalist, went missing on January 21 and his family suspects he was arrested by Israeli soldiers.

Shouman moved from Calgary to Gaza in 2022 to give his family an opportunity to reconnect with their Palestinian roots and spend time with their family.

When the siege of Gaza began last fall, Shouman’s mother immediately tried to get her son and his family evacuated by contacting the Canadian government.

Zaheera Soomar, who was a part of a group of individuals in Toronto helping manage Shouman’s social media while he was reporting from Gaza, says that evacuating his family was a complicated process.

“The Canadian government had to get Israeli approval for them to be evacuated,” Soomar told PressProgress.

She said while they were waiting to be evacuated, Shouman, an independent journalist, realized he could help showcase what was happening to the English-speaking world.

“By the time the approval came through to leave, I think he had done enough to make him feel like he was actually making a difference by showing the world what was happening and he felt a sense of responsibility towards his people,” Soomar said.

“At that stage, none of us assumed or even thought it would be going on for this long. We thought a ceasefire would have been called.”

But when Shouman’s team stopped hearing from him 10 days ago, they realized something was wrong.

When contacted, Global Affairs Canada provided PressProgress the same generic statement received by Soomar and Shouman’s family.

“Global Affairs Canada is aware of a Canadian who is missing in Gaza. Canadian officials continue to monitor the situation closely and are in direct contact with the family members. Due to privacy considerations, no further information can be disclosed,” a spokesperson for Global Affairs Canada said in a statement.

Soomar said the group supporting Shouman’s work in Canada spoke to him every single day, receiving regular updates and videos except for when Shouman was sleeping or when there were communications blackouts – and even then he would try to keep the team updated.

“He was in a tent next to Al Nasser hospital, the journalist tent. When there was a comms blackout he would have to go to a place where there was connectivity,” Soomar said.

“He would tell us he was going to go look for a connection and then he would come back and that’s what was happening in the days leading up to his disappearance.”

On January 21, Soomar says the group spoke to Shouman, and although the situation in Khan Younis was tense, she said he “didn’t express any serious concerns.”

“Everyday he would record the airstrikes getting closer to them,” Soomar said.

For a few days they didn’t hear from Shouman, but the group struggled to find credible information on his whereabouts.

“Then on Saturday morning, I got a call from this contact of mine. And she said, I’ve got a number of people who are witnesses to a group of people being arrested. Three eyewitnesses identified that he was one of these people arrested at a checkpoint between Khan Younis and Rafah,” Soomar said.

Soomar adds that as the days go by, they haven’t heard any updates from the Canadian government on the search for Shouman.

“We’ve written thousands of emails to the government, we’ve worked with embassies, we are working with some groups that can help us get a detainee list out of Israel,” Soomar said.

“All the media houses, including us, including his mother and his wife, get the same statement, which is that we are aware of the situation and are monitoring it closely. His mother emails Global Affairs every single day and there’s nothing. They have not given any update.”

Shouman’s mother has been issuing pleas on social media daily to help find her son.

“I’m in constant contact with his mother. So we are coordinating all the efforts for her on her behalf. And I speak to her throughout the day, every hour – there’s nothing,” Soomar said.

“It’s probably your worst nightmare as a mother. And understandably, she is beyond distraught. Her health has taken a massive dip. She’s got his wife and five kids with her.”

A petition calling for Mansour’s release reached over $160,000 in less than a week.

Soomar says online misinformation about Shouman’s whereabouts is only adding to the family’s stress.

“We heard a lot of things from a lot of different people – that he left to Rafah, that he was in the hospital, but no one could give us credible information of where he was,” Soomar said. “We had people say, he’s fine, he’s in hiding. We had a number of people create fake accounts in his name, asking for donations. He would never ask people for money.”

Soomar adds that she wants the government to publicly acknowledge that Shouman is missing, and to confirm whether or not he has been detained.

“We need them to get him out. He’s a Canadian citizen. He only has a Canadian passport. So you cannot ask for help from anywhere else but Canada,” Soomar said.

“He’s a journalist. We know that independent journalists are being targeted in Gaza. We don’t believe he’s missing, we believe he’s been taken.”

On Tuesday, the Washington, DC-based Committee to Protect Journalists issued a statement that it was “deeply alarmed by the disappearance of Shouman, who has been the eyes of the world into events of the war in Gaza.”

“Israeli authorities must respond to claims that the IDF arrested the journalist, and, ensure the safety and well-being of the press, and immediately release the numerous journalists in Israeli prisons.”

A petition calling for Mansour’s release reached over $160,000 in less than a week.


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Rumneek Johal
Rumneek Johal is PressProgress' BC Reporter. Her reporting focuses on systemic inequality, workers and communities, as well as racism and far-right extremism.

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