Razan Zeitouneh’s missing light – Reem Zeitouneh

Ten months have passed and Razan’s email light is still red! It was not easy for me to hear; I did not believe it, and I do not want to believe. Only the idea that Razan disappeared in the Eastern Ghouta area in Duma close to Damascus – at the hands of those she was […]

Syrian human rights activist Razan Zeitouneh, kidnapped since December 2014.
Syrian human rights activist Razan Zeitouneh, kidnapped since December 2013. (c) Razan Zeitouneh.

Ten months have passed and Razan’s email light is still red! It was not easy for me to hear; I did not believe it, and I do not want to believe. Only the idea that Razan disappeared in the Eastern Ghouta area in Duma close to Damascus – at the hands of those she was always defending – is appalling to me. I was waiting for her call, to hear her voice again, to hear that everything is okay. Unfortunately, this has never come to happen.

The first time she received a threat, she did not tell me about it worried that I would tell our parents, but a close friend informed me. I urged her to leave her position and to move to another, or to leave the country altogether. Not surprisingly, she told me that threats will never discourage her. “Syria is my homeland that I love, and fear shall never force me to desert what I love”, she added.

I never had that degree of courage that my sister had, nor had I ever her revolutionary heart on these wrongs around us. As well, I did not inherit her will to write and to analyze whichever issue she could address.

From my early childhood on, she had always surprised me with her ability to provide answers for whatever I inquired or wondered about. Her interests and knowledge were distinctive in such a closed traditional society that we lived in.

I cannot remember a single day of waking up or falling asleep in the room we shared when Razan was not turning page after page of a book. For a while, I complained about the lamp above my head that she refused to turn off continuing reading.

She took me along most of the time and so I escorted her to numerous sit-ins that she had attended for many years. Some of these events were to campaign or to protest for Palestine, Iraq or similar issues. In one of these sit-ins she met her husband Wa’el, who was also an activist and was eventually kidnapped alongside her. Razan was particularly active in the events of what was called the “Spring of Damascus”, which I felt to be Razan’s spring as well.

Razan worked in journalism. While completing her law studies, she addressed many of the most pressing social issues in her writings and publications. She did not spare a day or an effort in pursuing justice and equality for all.

My sister did not write for fame or reputation, nor to be arbitrarily found on first pages of magazines. She was an honest and sincere activist who sought solutions for issues that she addressed in her writings.

Razan especially focused on women and children-related issues, emphasizing their rights and concerns. She personally followed up their living conditions and visited them in their houses and centres. Even though so many times unable to help, she never ignored someone in need. Her justification was: “At least I can listen to them”.

Directly after graduating law school, Razan pursued her legal activism during her training period. Throughout that time, I escorted her to her office in one of the human rights organizations where she received her legal training. There I saw her sitting at her desk, working on prisoner-related issues.

Without any kind of discrimination, Razan defended political prisoners from all backgrounds and political affiliations. She even cared for the prisoners’ families and friends, and enjoyed good relations with them. She supported them in their predicament and considered herself to be a member of these families. I was proud that people loved her and valued her work. Currently, her kidnappers are trying to silence her and her colleagues, those who disappeared alongside her.

In only a few words I am hereby addressing the kidnappers – whoever and wherever they might be: “We will not give up nor will we frustrate; and if you think that by kidnapping Razan you are going to silence her voice, then you should know that we are following the same path she took.”

The legacy of Razan’s activism is well-preserved. The efforts of her friends are engraved in Syria’s humanitarian memory.

Razan’s fellow-revolutionaries called her the “Lady of the Revolution” and the“Jasmine of Damascus”. Maybe, she merits these nicknames, or maybe, she deserves even more than such. Definitely, Razan and her colleagues deserve to be free.

Bring her back to us! She is not only our daughter but the symbol of our revolution.

Freedom to all of you: Razan, Nazem, Wa’el and Samira. Freedom to all prisoners. Freedom to our imprisoned Syria.

Razan Zeitouneh has been engaged in the Syrian revolution right from its beginning. Long before the start of the Syrian protest movement in March of 2011, Zeitouneh had been actively engaged in fighting human rights violations in Syria. In fear of regime reprisal, she immediately went into hiding when anti-regime protests started in Syria. In order to subdue Razan’s activism, the regime then abducted Razan’s husband Wa’el Hamade and her brother-in-law. They were later released by the regime.

Within the Syrian Revolution, Razan Zeitouneh was committed to keep track of human rights violations – whoever committed them. Therefore, she started the “Violations Documentation Center in Syria” (VDC). Additionally, she was actively involved in the Local Coordination Committees (LCC) that were set up early in the revolution. Her tireless work for human rights in Syria earned Zeitouneh several international awards, among them the 2011 Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought awarded by European Parliament.

Zeitouneh’s work in documenting abuse and atrocities from all sides led to several threats against her. While hiding from regime forces in Douma, Eastern Ghouta near Damascus, she was kidnapped on the 10th of December, 2013, alongside her husband Wa’el Hamade, colleagues Samira Al Khalil and Nazem Al Hamadi – also called the “Douma4” by fellow-activists. The kidnappers remain unknown to this day. Nevertheless, there are suspicions that local armed anti-Assad forces are behind the kidnapping: the “Jaish al-Islam” of Zahran Alloush. So far, Alloush’s group has denied any responsibility. Up to this day, no group has publicly declared responsibility for the kidnapping. Thus, eleven months after their disappearance, there are no confirmed news about the kidnapped “Douma4”.

This text on the renowned Syrian human rights lawyer and activist Razan Zeitouneh was recently published by her sister Reem Zeitouneh on “Huna Sautak“. The article was originally published in Arabic on 31/10/2014. The English version published above is a translation by one of Adopt a Revolution’s activists.