Why Did Syria Release Kevin Patrick Dawes? The American Photographer Had Been Held Since 2012

The Syrian regime captured and held an American freelance photographer when he visited the country in 2012. However, on April 8, the photographer, Kevin Patrick Dawes, was unexpectedly freed by the regime after four years. Why did Syria release this freelance photographer?

Dawes, 33, traveled to Syria via Turkey and ended up on the FBI Missing Person list after he was last seen in October 2012. He reportedly traveled to the Middle East to pursue photojournalism and to deliver medicine. Although Dawes has been missing for nearly four years, he has gained little media attention since he was captured. Now, as the Syrian regime has announced his release, Dawes' case has made headlines.

The reasons for his release remain relatively unknown; two anonymous U.S. official spoke with The Washington Post and said that Dawes' release has come after numerous months of negotiations. However, it's unclear whether these negotiations were made directly with the Syrian regime or with a third-party. Either way, the U.S. State Department headed the conversations that eventually led to Dawes' release from Syria. When Dawes was recently allowed to receive care packages and make phone calls to his family, the U.S. government took that as a sign that the Syrian regime was thinking about freeing him.

Dawes started his trip to the Middle East in Libya, but in June 2012, he began asking for help to fund his Syrian aid mission. He started a blog, Frontier Journalism, that explained his proposed trip to Syria and the exact supplies he would need to better aid wounded people. "Covering the new economy and modern battlefield through an independent lens" was Dawes' tagline on his blog, presumably describing his mission for traveling to the Middle East as a photojournalist.

In addition to still photos, Dawes uploaded a series of videos to his personal YouTube channel that documented his experiences in the Middle East. One video, which appears on his blog, is titled "Life and Death on the Battlefield," and it shows Dawes riding in a car with another man around Libya. Other videos on Dawes' YouTube page show a dangerous battlefield where men are opening fire and loud explosions are heard in the distance.

Dawes, a San Diego native, maintained a Twitter account until his abduction in October 2012. His tweets focused on Syria, specifically deaths and tragic events happening around the country. His last tweet was a retweet on Oct. 2, 2012 that alleged Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's forces were abducting civilians.

It is unclear when Dawes will return to California and what the next steps are for his release. Dawes' release may be a hopeful sign for the eventual release of journalist, former marine, and American hostage, Austin Tice, who was also abducted in Syria in 2012.