Updated on 8 April, 2014 with the second statement issued by Razan Zeitouneh’s family (see documents in right idebar)
On 9 December, an unknown armed group kidnapped human rights lawyer and activist Razan Zeitouneh, ex-political prisoner Samira Khalil, activist and Razan’s spouse Wael Hamada, and the lawyer and poet Nazim Hamadi from the office of the VDC and LDSPS in Douma, Damascus suburbs.
Razan Zeitouneh co-founded the Local Coordination Committees in Syria (LCC) and the Violations Documentation Center (VDC), which documents all human rights violations in Syria. She also co-founded the local development and small projects support office (LDSPS), which provides basic needs and essential services and support to medical and development centres in Syria generally, and particularly in Eastern Ghouta. She is one of the few internationally-known activists who have remained in Syria since the start of the uprising in March 2011.
No group has claimed responsibility. An LCC member said the abductors “seemed to be intimately familiar with the area”. The LCC and VDC have issued statements condemning the kidnapping and called for the safe and unconditionally return of the activists.
Zeitouneh frequently wrote on the crimes of both the regime and groups within the insurgency. With others in the LCC and the VDC, she brought out the news of the August 21 chemical weapons attacks near Damascus. In an article published on December 1, she challenged the Islamic State of Iraq and as-Sham (ISIS) over its abduction of a young doctor, saying that the group’s liquidation of human rights activists complemented the work of the Assad regime.
In December 2011, Zeitouneh was chosen as one of Foreign Policy’s Global Thinkers and recorded a video for its annual event explaining why Syrians would risk everything to stand up to the Assad regime:
Hivos knows Razan Zeitouneh as a peaceful human rights defender. She is connected to the Syrian Centre for Media and Freedom of Expression (SCM), whose staff was arrested in February 2012, including founder and director Mazen Darwish. Razan Zeitouneh has been particularly important for the SCM group since Darwish, who is still facing terrorism charges, was detained.
Hivos joins the VDC, the LCC, the Gulf Center for Human Rights, and a multitude of others in strongly condemning this kidnapping and asking for the immediate and unconditional release of Razan Zeitouneh, Wael Hamada, Nazem Al-Hamadi and Samira Al-Khalil.