Steven Sotloff's Parents Open Up As 1-Year Anniversary Nears
MIAMI (AP) — The parents of slain journalist Steven Sotloff are speaking out about the foundation they established to honor his legacy and their disappointment with the U.S. government in a rare interviewing marking the 1-year anniversary of his death.
South Florida residents Shirley and Arthur Sotloff have spoken little since the Islamic State group released a video showing a jihadi behead American-Israeli journalist Steven Sotloff on September 2, 2014. Their pain is still raw and they are angry that the U.S. government didn't do enough to bring home their son, but they're channeling their grief and anger into 2Lives Steven Joel Sotloff Memorial Foundation to endow scholarships to journalism students. Steven Sotloff's body has never been found, but the Steven Sotloff Memorial at Pinecrest Gardens is also slated to be unveiled later this month.
"He was my best friend. We were very close. We understood each other. Instead of father and son, we were more like brothers and friends. We knew a lot about each other. I confided in him, he confided in me, which, at the time, I didn't think that was that normal to do," Arthur Sotloff told the Miami Herald (http://tinyurl.com/pyyu54f).
Steven Sotloff, a 31-year-old freelance journalist for Time and Foreign Policy magazines, had been held hostage for a year after being taken from a fake government checkpoint while trying to travel from Turkey to Syria to cover the Syrian civil war. Steven, who spoke fluent Arabic, often had to hide his Jewish heritage when he traveled.
During that year, they received one phone call and a smuggled letter in which Steven wrote, "Everyone has two lives. The second one begins when you realize that you only have one. Hug each other every day. Don't fight over stupid things."
"In that letter he was saying goodbye," Arthur says. "He knew he wasn't going to make it out because he was told that every day that he wouldn't by his captors and he was telling us to go on with our lives. It was kind of a blueprint for the way Jews are supposed to live."
The video was released just days after Shirley released her own video pleading with the Islamic State to spare their son.
"We were in shock," Shirley said.
"Not once did we ever think it would end this way. When he was alive we weren't allowed to raise money to save my son. But now that he's gone I can raise as much money as I can for his legacy. I see something wrong with that philosophy," Arthur says, still angry at the Obama administration.
Earlier this summer, President Barack Obama conceded the U.S. government had let down the families of Americans held hostage by terrorists and promised they would not face criminal prosecution for paying ransoms to their loved ones' captors. The president said U.S. government officials can communicate directly with terrorists and help families negotiate for the release of hostages. More than 30 Americans are being held hostage abroad, White House officials have said.
The Obama administration has received harsh criticism from families of Americans kidnapped by the Islamic State, Al-Qaeda and other groups. Families have complained about receiving confusing and contradictory information from the government and bristled at threats of prosecution for considering paying terrorists to secure the release of hostages.
In addition to the journalism scholarships, the Sotloffs said they're considering working with Diane Foley, the mother of American journalist James Foley who was killed weeks before Sotloff, to establish a hostage crisis center for families in the United States.
"The U.K. has a crisis place for families to go to. The U.S. has nothing," Shirley says.
His father adds, "Twenty years from now I want to make sure my son's name is remembered by doing good things."