On December 9th an unknown group broke into the Violations Documentation Center (VDC) office in Duma and kidnapped Razan Zaitouneh along with her colleagues Wael Hamada, Samira Khalel, and Nazem Hamai. The VDC team was taken to an unknown location.
Razan Zaitouneh and her team are peaceful activists who have been working to forward the goals of the revolution, and they have a record of activism since long before the uprising. They have worked tirelessly to document violations and war crimes committed by the Syrian regime and radical groups. The VDC is known for its efficiency and credibility both locally and internationally. The Center collects evidence on violations that will support fair trials in the future and that provides an account of the abuses experienced by the Syrian people. This is crucial to ensure a proper process of transitional justice and the creation of a democratic, civil state that is based on equality and human rights.
The kidnapping took place in Duma, Damascus countryside, an area that has not been ruled by Assad regime since 2012. Kidnapping and repression of activists, in supposedly “liberated areas”, that struggle for the goals of the revolution only serve to benefit the Assad regime and weaken the revolution.
Before the kidnapping, Zaitouneh had received a threat on September 9th 2013, when a group of fighters fired at the front door of her house at 1:30 am. The group left a hand written letter asking her to leave the area.
The kidnapping of the VDC team members, who have spent years of their lives fighting the regime and documenting violations against the Syrians who have paid a huge price for freedom, is a shameful black spot in the revolution and should be resolved immediately.
All the opposition forces, civil society groups, and friends of Syria around the world are asked to take action to identify the kidnappers and the whereabouts of the VDC team immediately, to ensure the safety of the VDC team members, and to push for their release so they can continue their vital work to support the revolution.