On April 29, 2016, the family of Syrian human rights defender and lawyer Razan Zaitouneh will mark another birthday without her. Instead of celebrating, they are demanding justice and working to ensure that the cases of thousands of “disappeared” people are not forgotten as the Syrian conflict grinds into its sixth year with no end in sight.
On December 9, 2013, Razan, her husband Wael Hamada and their colleagues Samira Khalil and Nazem Hamadi – collectively known as the “Douma Four” – were abducted during a raid by a group of armed men on the offices of the VDC in Douma, near Damascus. They have not been seen since.
Like many other human rights activists perceived by the government to be involved in pro-reform protests, Razan Zaitouneh was forced into hiding in 2011 after receiving threats from the Syrian authorities. In the last few months before her abduction, she received threats from at least one armed opposition group in the Eastern Ghouta area.
Amnesty International believes that the abduction of the four activists was a direct result of their peaceful human rights work. Their ongoing detention forms part of a wider pattern of threats and harassment by both government forces and armed groups seeking to prevent human rights defenders from exposing abuses. They should be released immediately.
Razan Zaitouneh has been one of the key lawyers defending political prisoners in Syria since 2001. She has played a key role in efforts to defend the universality of human rights and support independent groups and activists in Syria. She established the Violations Documentation Centre in Syria (VDC) and co-founded the Local Coordination Committees (LCCs), which coordinate the work of local committees in various cities and towns across Syria. She also established the Local Development and Small Projects Support Office, which assists nongovernmental organizations in besieged Eastern Ghouta.
In recognition of her work as a human rights defender, Razan was awarded the 2011 Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought, the 2011 Anna Politkovskaya Award of RAW in WAR (Reach All Women In War) and the 2013 International Women of Courage Award.
Share a brief message of solidarity and/or birthday greeting for Razan. Artwork and “selfie” photos holding your message are very welcome. Your messages will be given to Razan’s family and shared at a vigil on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on April 30th. Send your message to campaigner Hilary Homes at Amnesty International (firstname.lastname@example.org) or shared it on Facebook.