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Razan Zaitouneh

Human rights defender and legal counsel for prisoners of conscience in Syria, Ms. Razan Zaitouneh. Image: DCHRS

(WNN) Damascus, SYRIA, WESTERN ASIA: An abduction in Syria continues to go unsolved as 36-year-old Syrian human rights attorney and peace activist, Ms. Razan Zaitouneh  became part of the statistics herself that she was gathering inside Syria. Now part of ‘the missing’ inside her country Zaitouneh was forcefully taken away with three other rights defenders in what human rights groups inside and outside of Syria term a “forced disappearance.”

Zaitouneh’s was joined in her abduction by her husband Nazem al-Hamadi, along with reform activist Ms. Sameera Alkhalil along with lawyer and poet Wael Hamadahmore more than one month ago on December 9, 2013 in the Damascus suburb of Douma city.

To date the undetermined group of masked men who committed this crime have not yet been identified, although the source of their affiliations have been part of ongoing disputes between those allied with the government and those who have been working toward reform in Syria. The case has also not been opened officially or investigated by Syria’s government authorities or any other opposing group in Syria.

“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, she received threats from at least one armed opposition group in the Eastern Ghouta area,” outlined FIDH – International Federation for Human Rights, which was founded in 1922 in part to advocate for the freedom of human rights for human rights defenders worldwide.

Zaitouneh has provided legal counsel for the past 13 years for numerous political prisoners of conscience inside Syria and helped the families of those whose relatives were imprisoned . For her actions and work as legal counsel and advocate she received the prestigious Sakharov Prize from the European Parliament in 2011. The attorney has also received the 2013 International Women of Courage award from the U.S. Department of State prize, as well as the 2011 Anna Politkovskaya Prize that is given each year as part of the Reach All Women In War campaign for women rights defenders living under regions in conflict.

“Besides being an icon of the Syrian revolution, Razan cofounded the Local Coordination Committees in Syria (LCC) and the Violation Documentation Center (VDC), which documents all human rights violations in Syria. She co-founded the local development and small projects support office (LDSPS) as well which aims to help the people in Syria generally, and in Eastern Ghouta more specifically, to provide basic needs and essential services and support to medical and development centers. Her and her colleagues work is very well recognized by the inhabitants in Ghouta,” said one of the organizations Zaitouneh founded in 2011, the Violations Documentation Center, in a formal online statement made immediately following the arbitrary abductions.

“Her kidnapping and the kidnapping of her colleagues indicates yet again the endeavor of some to undermine any form of civil action to help Syrians in the liberated areas to rule and provide for themselves,” continued the organization’s recent formal statement.

Many who know knew Zaitouneh admit that she knew her work could put her in mortal danger, but that would not stop the attorney in what has been considered by many as important work to expose atrocity and injustice inside Syria.

Razan refuses to leave Syria until the fighting in the country is over and the regime has been toppled,” said the organizers for the Sakharov Prize in 2011.

Zaitouneh’s Violations Documentation Center has carefully worked to document those who are considered to be part of ‘the missing’ in Syria from the present back to year 1982, in addition to documenting new reports of 2014 chemical weapons use by “Syrian Army forces” in the region on January 13.

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Razan Zaitouneh recorded this message with updates on the situation in Syria for FIDH – International Federation for Human Rights on 4 December 2013.

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