Mom pleads for release of captive US journalist

Video message aimed directly at his captors
Associated Press
Aug 27, 2014


The mother of an American freelance journalist held hostage and threatened with death by Islamic militants pleaded for his release Wednesday in a video message aimed directly at his captors.

Shirley Sotloff, who lives in the Miami area, addressed the leader of the Islamic State in seeking the return of Steven Sotloff, 31. Shirley Sotloff said that her son shouldn't pay for U.S. government actions in the Middle East over which he has no control, and that as a journalist he cared about the weak and oppressed.

"I want what every mother wants, to live to see her children's children." she said. "I plead with you to grant me this."

Shirley Sotloff cited by name the leader of the Islamic State, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, who has described himself as a caliph intending to lead the Muslim world. She asks him to show mercy and follow the example of the prophet Muhammad in protecting people of Muslim, Jewish and Christian faiths.

"You, the caliph, can grant amnesty. I ask you please to release my child. I ask you to use your authority to spare his life," Shirley Sotloff said on the video.

The video was aired on the Al-Arabiya television network. A telephone message left at the Sotloffs' suburban Miami home was not immediately returned Wednesday.

Sotloff was last seen in August 2013 in Syria. He was threatened with death by the militants on a video unless the U.S. stopped air strikes on the group in Iraq. The same video showed the beheading of fellow American journalist James Foley.

The new video by Shirley Sotloff marked the first detailed public comments the family has made since Steven Sotloff went missing. Several U.S. officials, including U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla., say they have been working behind the scenes to find out more about him and try to secure his release.

At the White House, spokesman Josh Earnest told reporters he did not know whether President Barack Obama had seen Shirley Sotloff's video, but he said the administration is "deeply engaged" in trying to gain release of all Americans held hostage in the Middle East.

"She obviously, as is evident from the video, feels desperate about the safety and well-being of her son, and understandably so, and that is why our thoughts and prayers are with Mr. Sotloff's family at this very difficult and trying time."

On his Twitter feed, Sotloff described himself as a "stand-up philosopher from Miami. Currently in Libya." He also mentions several publications in which his work appeared, including Time and Foreign Policy magazines.

Before Sotloff was shown on the Islamic State video, only a few friends and family knew he had been taken hostage, said Sotloff's former roommate at the University of Central Florida, Emerson Lotzia. His parents didn't want anyone to go public. Lotzia said he recently spoke to Sotloff's father, Arthur Sotloff.

"He was in the best of spirits, then he was in the worst of spirits," said Lotzia, now a local TV sports anchor in West Palm Beach. "He told me, 'At last I know my son is alive. But look at the situation.' It's killing him, and he's trying his best to stay on an even keel."

Just how Sotloff made his way from Florida to Middle East hotspots is not clear. But Lotzia told the UCF student newspaper, the Central Florida Future, that Sotloff was doing what he loved.

"A million people could have told him what he was doing was foolish, it seemed like it to us (as) outsiders looking in, but to him it was what he loved to do and you weren't going to stop him," Lotzia said. "Steve said it was scary over there. It was dangerous. It wasn't safe to be over there. He knew it. He kept going back."

According to a society notice in The Miami Herald's archives, Sotloff graduated from Kimball Union Academy in New Hampshire in May 2002 and began attending the University of Central Florida that fall. The notice says Sotloff was co-editor of the student newspaper, The Kimball Union, and received an award for student journalism.

UCF spokeswoman Zenaida Gonzalez Kotala said school records show Sotloff was a student majoring in journalism from fall 2002 until fall 2004. She said the school has no record of him graduating.

UCF student newspaper archives show Sotloff wrote frequently for the publication on topics ranging from presidential politics to a fire at a campus-affiliated apartment complex.

More recently, Sotloff published articles from Syria, Egypt and Libya in a variety of publications, including, the World Affairs Journal and Foreign Policy. He posted links to many of them on his Twitter feed, and several focus on the plight of average people in war-torn places such as Aleppo, Syria.

James Denton, publisher and editor in chief of World Affairs, said Sotloff was an occasional and well-regarded contributor.

"He is known to us as an honest and thoughtful journalist who strives to understand the story from local perspectives and report his findings straightforwardly," Denton said in an email statement. "He is certainly courageous."

Aside from the Middle East, Sotloff's Twitter feed shows he was a big fan of the NBA's Miami Heat.

"Is it bad that I want to focus on #syria, but all I can think of is a #HEATFinals repeat?" he tweeted in June 2013 before the team won its second consecutive title.



I hope she gets her child back and he has enough brains not to go back to those countries where these morons are taking over. Not to sound degrading to the mother but after watching this woman i had the feeling something was "Off" with her. I cannot put my finger on it but something did not look and sound right with it.

JMOP's picture

I hope she gets her son back too.

I think what would be more effective is if his father (or another male) would make the plea for his safe return. The ISIS is barbaric against women and girls, let alone an American woman.


I agree 100% Donegan - this entire situation (ISIS in general afterall who even heard of this group EVER before a couple months ago?) -well the whole thing just doesn't seem right --there's something weird about it I can't put my finger on it either. The whole thing is kinda like George Bush's "weapons of mass destruction" situation...or saying our Libyan embassy got blown up (on 9-11 no less lol) cause of a youtube video....these things never made sense at the time and it was all rammed down our throats anyhow...
I dont know; I just dont believe what's being reported -somethings not right.

JMOP's picture

ISIS/ISIL/IS has been around for a while. They were formed within al Qaida.

This is also the same group in which Obama called them "Syrian Rebels" and wanted to aid and arm them with military weapons.

From the Grave

Maybe we should offer them candy.


I sincerely hope the government isn't negotiating with ISIS terrorists. As horrific as a situation like this has got to be for those who know and love someone taken hostage, the bottom line is that ANY negotiation will merely encourage more hostage-taking because the bad guys will learn that the technique WORKS. That, in turn, puts still more innocents at risk.

The Foley beheading was horrific. Another similar death would be just as awful. But people who go to areas where there's a significant risk of being killed or kidnapped usually know what they're doing. Maybe they think they're immune. Maybe they think what they're doing is worth the risk. Either way, we can't let ISIS think -- even briefly -- it's getting the upper hand in any way, shape, form, or manner.


This is one area were I have to give it to white people. Some of you are extremely fearless. He gets his props for bravery but was totally acting irresponsible and stupidly. No story is worth your life. NONE!

JMOP's picture

Ever see Mexicans get beheaded? For some reason they are all calm.

I think it might be more in the state of shock. In foley's case, I believe he accepted his fate, and was well prepared for it. Almost at peace.

Also, why isn't the full video shown? That was the first beheading execution I've seen where it's edited out during the process.


A lot of Mexicans are beheaded by drug cartels. I have never seen anyone beheaded nor do I plan to or want to. Foley accepted his fate years ago. This was not his first "rodeo". Same goes for certain criminals.


The full video hasn't been shown on most traditional news sites because it's deemed "too graphic." Most re-postings of the videos come from one or another of those sites. The full video is, however, available on the Internet if you're really interested enough to look for it.

JMOP's picture

You mean full video as in the entire beheading? I saw it on Best of Gore. They have always got the full videos before. Are they missing on this one Sam?


I don't know whether Best of Gore has the full video or not since I haven't looked for it. I've only seen the edited version myself (along with some of those countless re-postings), but I've also seen plenty of comments from people who've seen the full version.

JMOP's picture

Thanks for replying back Sam.

I think what I saw was the entire video that was released, it's the beginning of the beheading then it cuts out and the next you see his head laying on top of his body. I don't mean to sound gruesome repeating it with this main detail being left out, I just wonder why it's left out.

Edit: the video starts off with Obama taking about two minutes, then foley talking about how the US sealed his fate with the bombing, and he was ashamed to be an American. Then the English rapper ISIS guy is talking about Obama then the execution begins


It seems she's lacking emotion. And the Foley beheading was "off" too.

JMOP's picture

Did you notice the executioner had his gun strap for being right handed, yet he used his left hand for the knife?


How about the fact that there should be a lot more blood from start to finish of the beheading. Also when a woman pleads for her childs life it should be more emotional.


Insensitive comment.

The Big Dog's back

People in this country need to quit letting the "shock" value get to them. These terrorists do things like beheadings because they know a certain segment of our citizens will pee their pants and think they are in immediate danger. Once that fear value weighs off, they won't do it anymore. Toughen up America, and you don't need to buy an arsenal of guns to be tough.




I couldn't watch her plea. Too sad for me.