September 5, 2018
Syrian activist and documenter of rights violations Razan Zeitouneh – outspoken, courageous, impartial, and secular – was kidnapped on 9 December 2013, alongside her husband, Wa’el Hamade, and colleagues Samira Al Khalil and Nazem Al Hamadi. The four, since called ‘The Douma Four’, after the city in Eastern Ghouta in which they were working, have been missing ever since.
Years before the 2011 Syrian revolution, the name of Razan Zeitouneh was well-known within activist circles in Syria.
In 2005, she founded the bilingual (Arabic and English) website Syrian Human Rights Information Link (SHRIL), which became one of the earliest sources documenting human rights abuses by Syrian regime forces when the revolution started in 2011.
Her activism had already resulted in a travel ban in 2002, just two years after Bashar Assad took over from his father, Hafez.
Despite threats and ongoing risks, Zeitouneh did not want to leave Syria. In a 2005 interview, she stated “I will never leave this country – never”. She also said that she was psychologically prepared to be arrested at any moment, adding “I’m not afraid”.
Shortly after the initial 2011 protests, Zeitouneh co-founded the Local Coordination Committees (LCCs) to help organise demonstrations and document the protests as well as the brutal crackdown inflicted upon protesters by regime forces.
Then, in June of that year, she co-founded the Violations Documentation Center in Syria (VDC) to help document “all kinds of human rights violations in Syria”.