Tag Archives: Syria

Syria: ‘A person who believed’: Remembering Razan Zaitouneh on her 41st birthday

April 29, 2018

One by one, prisoners exited government buses into a packed auditorium in Damascus earlier this month. Many of the detainees, formerly held by an Islamist rebel faction in East Ghouta, were set to rejoin their family and friends for the first time in years.

Jaish al-Islam, a once-powerful armed group in the suburbs east of Damascus, surrendered the city of Douma to the Syrian government in mid-April. As part of the deal, the rebels agreed to release all detainees they had accumulated over the past seven years.

For Suad Khabeia and other Syrian activists, the April 8 prisoner release in Damascus was the last glimmer of hope that they might see disappeared civil society activist Razan Zaitouneh again.

But although Jaish al-Islam had long boasted of holding thousands of prisoners, only 200 people were released before the faction’s fighters left for northern Syria alongside thousands of civilians earlier this month.

Zaitouneh, a Syrian lawyer and human rights advocate who gained international recognition for her civil society work in the wake of the 2011 Syrian revolution, was not among them.  

“Hope has withered away for most people,” Khabeia tells Syria Direct’s Noura al-Hourani from her home in Cairo, Egypt. Khabeia met Zaitouneh at a demonstration in Damascus in 2001 and worked with her for years before leaving Syria.

Zaitouneh founded the Violations Documentation Center (VDC) in April 2011—just after mass anti-government protests began in Syria—to track and report human rights abuses in the country by all parties.

Then, On December 9, 2013, masked gunmen raided the offices of the VDC in Douma and kidnapped four of its members: Zaitouneh, her husband Wael Hamada, Samira al-Khalil and Nazim Hamadi.  

Collectively known as the “Douma Four,” the kidnapped activists were never heard from again. Zaitouneh’s family—along with many other activists and humanitarian organizations—hold Jaish al-Islam responsible for the kidnappings, a claim that the rebel group categorically denies.

Today, on what would be Razan Zaitouneh’s 41st birthday—more than four years after the disappearance of the Douma Four—Khabeia reflects on her friend and colleague’s legacy.



https://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Razan_Zaitouneh (FRANCAIS)


Syria: Four prominent activists were abducted in Syria. Their fate may now become clear

April 13, 2018

As the battle front shifted in recent days in a ravaged eastern suburb of Damascus, relatives of four human rights activists abducted there in late 2013 saw cause for hope: Might the transfer from opposition to government control of Douma provide clues to their fate?

The abduction of the two men and two women known as the Douma 4 — by Islamist rebels active in the area, their families say — was an ominous milestone in Syria’s cataclysmic war. It signaled the rise of armed Islamist groups that came to dominate the opposition while casting aside, often brutally, civilian activists who had helped coordinate the revolt against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s iron-fisted rule.

And the kidnapping was a high-profile reminder of the thousands of other Syrians who have disappeared, sometimes without a trace, over more than seven years of war. Relatives said that since the abduction on Dec. 9, 2013, they have had no solid information about the four: Razan Zaitouneh, Wael Hamadeh, Samira Khalil and Nazem Hammadi.

Rumors materialized and then dissolved. Enticing stories told by Islamist defectors could never be confirmed. “From time to time, we hear yes, they are okay, they are there, or they were given to the regime,” said Khalil’s husband, Yassin al-Haj Saleh. “We don’t really know if the information is true. It’s possible,” he said.

On Monday, as news of the prisoner releases circulated, the relatives grasped at every report.

“Yesterday, they released about 200 detainees,” said Zaitouneh’s sister, Reem Zaitouneh, who lives in Canada. “We are trying to get the names. We are trying to reach some people there. We hope they can find some news,” she said.

Her sister, a human rights lawyer, is a singularly revered figure in opposition circles, a woman who had defended dissidents in state security courts in the years before the revolt and then recorded war crimes and other violations by the government as well as its armed opponents after the uprising exploded into war.

She was a founder of the Violation Documentation Center as well as the Local Coordination Committees, a network that coordinated and documented anti-government protests and tallied the costs of the conflict.






http://www.lemonde.fr/syrie/article/2018/04/13/la-ghouta-tombeau-de-la-revolution-syrienne_5285063_1618247.html (FRANCAIS)

http://www.rebelion.org/noticia.php?id=240148 (ESPANOL)

https://www.panorama.it/news/esteri/siria-sette-anni-dopo-cosa-resta-del-movimento-non-violento/ (ITALIANO)

http://www.marchenews24.it/la-guerra-non-e-donna-voci-dalla-siria-con-asmae-dachan-18965.html (ITALIANO)

https://www.rtp.pt/noticias/mundo/os-quatro-de-douma-continuam-desaparecidos_n1069762 (PORTUGUES)

Syria: Regional: On International Women’s Day, GCHR honours women’s rights defenders in the Gulf and neighbouring countries

March 8, 2018

On International Women’s Day, marked annually on 08 March, the Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR) honours Women Human Rights Defenders (WHRDs) in the region and beyond. While remembering those who passed away, we celebrate those who continue the struggle. We stand in solidarity with their efforts while renewing our commitment to provide any possible support to WHRDs in the Gulf region and neighbouring countries to carry out their activism.

In 2018, women all over the world are still demanding their basic rights to equal participation and representation politically, socially and economically. Despite experiencing a severe backlash from state and non-state actors and other components of society, WHRDs and feminist groups and their organisations are becoming stronger. Demanding their rights, challenging stereotypes and raising awareness through physical and online campaigns.

Women continue to be at the forefront of human rights struggles in areas of conflict such as Iraq, Yemen and Syria. They are continuously being subjected to other layers of discrimination, segregation and gender-based targeting to weaken their determination, increase their vulnerability, shake their confidence and threaten their security. However, this has never succeeded in deterring them from defending their rights and the rights of others.


In Syria, and precisely from Eastern Ghouta, Razan Zaitouneh, the head of the Violations Documentation Centre in Syria (VDC), winner of the 2011 Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought and the 2011 Anna Politkovskaya Award of RAW in WAR (Reach All Women In War), remains enforceably disappeared for the fourth year, along with her three colleagues from VDC, including WHRD Samira Al-Khalil.




http://www.liberation.fr/planete/2018/03/01/syrie-on-n-a-observe-aucun-tir-sur-les-couloirs-humanitaires-depuis-leur-mise-en-place-dans-la-ghout_1633148 (FRANCAIS)

http://www.lemonde.fr/livres/article/2017/10/26/a-la-recherche-de-razan-zaitouneh-icone-syrienne_5206070_3260.html (FRANCAIS)

https://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Razan_Zaitouneh (FRANCAIS)

http://www.rebelion.org/noticia.php?id=238488 (ESPANOL)

Saudi Arabia/Iran/Syria: MENA: Participants at Gulf and Neighbouring Platform call for immediate release of all detained human rights defenders in the Middle East

January 24, 2018

On 22 January 2018, partners of the Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR) called for the release of all detained human rights defenders in the Middle East. At the event, hosted in Beirut by GCHR and Media Association for Peace (MAP), human rights defenders were joined by Michel Forst, United Nations Special Rapporteur on the situation of Human Rights Defenders, and representatives of Front Line Defenders, FIDH, CIVICUS and Amnesty International to make the public call to free their colleagues.

Host Khalid Ibrahim, GCHR’s Executive Director, mentioned some of the many human rights defenders jailed across the region, including GCHR’s two co-founders Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja and Nabeel Rajab in Bahrain, and GCHR Advisory Board member Ahmed Mansoor, jailed in the United Arab Emirates since March 2017. He noted that just as GCHR was being founded, Al-Khawaja was arrested, tortured and jailed in April 2011. He’s serving a life sentence for his peaceful human rights activities. Rajab is also serving a two-year sentence and facing up to 15 years in another trial on 21 February.

Ibrahim also noted other cases from the Gulf region and neighbouring countries, including in Syria of Razan Zaitouneh, Samira Al-Khail, Wa’el Hamadeh, Nazem Hammadi, Khalil Ma’touq and Mohamed Thatha. He mentioned some of the many dozens of human rights defenders jailed in Saudi Arabia, including Dr. Mohammed Al-Qahtani, Issa Al-Nukheifi, Essam Koshak, Walid Abu Al-Khair and Raif Badawi. In Oman, Internet activist Hassan Al-Basham is in jail, and in Kuwait, Sulaiman Bin Jassim was sentenced to seven years. In Iran, there are also many human rights defenders serving long sentences such as Narges Mohammadi, Atena Daemi and Dr. Abdolfattah Soltani. There are many others in Bahrain including Dr. Abduljalil Al-Singace.





http://www.gc4hr.org/news/view/1774 (ARABIC)

Syria/Germany: Syrian torture survivors speak out

December 21, 2017

Image result for human rights lawyer Anwar al-Bunni

Euronews reporter Hans von der Brelie speaks with Syrian victims of torture who are seeking justice in Germany.

“My wrists were bound together with iron chains,” said the man who calls himself Abu Firas. “They put me onto an iron bar under the ceiling so that my feet were two centimetres above the floor.”

“They hung me on my hands from the ceiling,” Abdul Karim Rihawi told Euronews.“They beat me with an iron stick.”

“My finger felt like it was the size of a football,” said Yazan Awad. “I felt my arms were very long because my shoulders became dislocated (by this torture). I looked and saw my arms far away. “

Sometimes, when emotions run high, Nahla Osman takes her clients for a walk alongside the river Main. Osman was born in Germany to parents from the Syrian city of Aleppo. She helps victims of torture. She and her brother run a law firm in the German city of Rüsselsheim.

She has compiled hundreds of witness reports detailing torture on a massive scale inside Syrian prisons and will file criminal complaints using the principle of universal jurisdiction which Germany enforces.

Next, we headed to an organisation tracking war criminals around the globe: the European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights where we met prominent Syrian human rights lawyer Anwar al-Bunni, and Syrian civil rights activist Yazan Awad, both torture survivors.







http://fr.euronews.com/2017/12/21/tortures-en-syrie-ils-reclament-justice-en-allemagne (FRANCAIS)

http://arabic.euronews.com/2017/12/21/syria-torture-victims-seek-justice-in-european-courts (ARABIC)

https://www.twreporter.org/a/bloody-syria-human-right-lawyer (CHINESE)

Syria: Razan Zaitouneh missing for four years

December 9, 2017


Today, 9 December 2017, marks four years since the disappearance of lawyer Razan Zaitouneh. Together with her husband and two colleagues, Razan Zaitouneh disappeared on 9 December 2013 in Douma, after a group of armed men stormed the office of the Violations Documentation Center. Since then, no one has heard from them.

Many organizations, Lawyers for Lawyers amongst them, repeatedly called for the release of Razan Zaitouneh and her colleagues.

As a prominent human rights lawyer, activist, and journalist, Razan Zaitouneh has dedicated her life to defending political prisoners, documenting crimes against humanity, and helping others free themselves from oppression. Since the beginning of the crisis in 2011, Razan Zaitouneh has played a key role in efforts to defend human rights for all and protect independent groups and activists in Syria. She is co-founder of the Local Coordination Committees in Syria and the Violations Documentation Center, which documents human rights violations in Syria.

Razan Zaitouneh was one of three finalists for the 2016 Martin Ennals Award for Human Rights Defenders. She was furthermore awarded with the 2011 Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought and the 2011 Anna Politkovskaya Award of Reach All Women in War (RAW in WAR) for her human rights work.





http://www.lefigaro.fr/livres/2017/11/22/03005-20171122ARTFIG00278-justine-augier-le-printemps-syrien-ne-peut-etre-efface.php (FRANCAIS)

https://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Razan_Zaitouneh (FRANCAIS)

https://www.ilfattoquotidiano.it/2017/12/10/ghouta-4-anni-fa-il-rapimento-di-razan-nessuno-conta-piu-i-morti-della-guerra/3999175/ (ITALIANO)

Syria: L’humanisme plutôt que l’humanitaire de Justine Augier

le 15 novembre, 2017

Justine Augier, écrivain, dresse le portrait et les combats de l’avocate syrienne Razan Zaitouneh dans “De l’ardeur” (Actes Sud, septembre 2017), qui a reçu le prix Renaudot essai 2017.


Razan Zaitouneh, photo non datée.

Une enquête syrienne

Installée aujourd’hui à Beyrouth, après Jérusalem et New York, la romancière Justine Augier vient d’être récompensée du Prix Renaudot Essai pour De l’ardeur, publié chez Actes sud, livre enquête sur la disparition d’une avocate syrienne. Razan Zaitouneh, militante des droits de l’homme, a passé sa vie à se protéger des intrusions du régime de Damas dont elle a documenté les dérives et les crimes commis dans son pays. Figure de la dissidence, discrète, mais courageuse et déterminée, elle s’applique à effacer les traces qu’elle peut laisser puis vivra cachée avant d’être enlevée en décembre 2013, après deux ans et demi de guerre civile.

Un portrait de l’absente que Justine Augier s’attache à reconstituer ou plutôt à « restituer », une histoire lacunaire dans un pays encore en guerre, en proie au “crime permanent.”

“Le régime a souhaité faire disparaître Razan, et avec elle une vision du monde complexe et libre.” Justine Augier







https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Razan_Zaitouneh (ENGLISH)

http://www.middleeasteye.net/news/syrias-eastern-ghouta-region-faces-critical-humanitarian-crisis-1863346342 (ENGLISH)

http://www.nybooks.com/articles/2017/11/23/raqqa-war-all-against-all/ (ENGLISH)