Who Is Kevin Patrick Dawes? The Syrian Regime Has Just Released Him, Finally
After months of negotiation, the Syrian government has released an American freelance photographer who was kidnapped in 2012, the Washington Post reported Friday. Kevin Patrick Dawes went missing in the fall of 2012 shortly after crossing into Syria from Turkey, the FBI said.
The details of Dawes' release have not been made public and it's unclear if negotiations were held directly with the Syrian government or through a third party. According to the Washington Post, the U.S. State Department had viewed a recent move by Syrian officials to allow Dawes to make phone calls home as a positive sign the regime was beginning to lean toward letting him go.
Although the FBI lists Dawes as a freelance photographer, many have questioned the 33-year-old's journalistic intentions. In a post to his blog Frontier Journalism dated May 26, 2012, Dawes said, "It is my ultimate goal to tell the story of the Arab Springtime with the words and faces I encounter," before clarifying that his "current objective is to put together an aid mission and journalistic expedition to the Syria/Lebanon region." Commentators from the forums of the comedy website somethingawful.com, where Dawes was allegedly a well-known poster who went by the moniker "Caro" or "Caro Ascendant," described the Korean-American as "mentally ill" and a "paranoid schizo goon went to Libya to fight alongside the rebels, killed a dude with a sniper rifle and performed combat surgery without any qualifications," when news he was missing hit the forum in 2013.
The details surrounding Dawes' descent into the Middle East are hazy at best and it's unclear if he ever had any actual journalism or medical training. Prior to his travels to Syria, Dawes was in Libya working as a volunteer medical aid worker but eventually opted to join a militia fighting pro-Gadhafi forces. He told NPR reporter Marine Olivesi he had "no choice" but to take up arms in October 2011 after an ambulance crew in his group was executed. "It was either this or perish here," he said. He reportedly trained himself on many medical procedures by watching YouTube videos, GQ reported.
Dawes attempted unsuccessfully to raise funds via Kickstarter in the spring of 2012 just before he left for Syria. His campaign, Aerial Battlefield Photojournalism, sought to send "aerial camera drones to film the killing fields of Syria to provide a unique view of the war there." Dawes raised only $30 of his $28,000 goal. According to his Kickstarter, Dawes holds a master's degree in electrical engineering from Cornell University and a bachelor's from the University of Texas.
Former U.S. Marine and freelance journalist Austin Tice is still missing in Syria, but officials hope Dawes' release is a positive sign Tice could also be freed.