Razan Zaitouneh

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Razan Zaitouneh
رزان زيتونة
Razan Zaitouneh.jpg
Undated picture of Razan Zaitouneh
Born(1977-04-29)29 April 1977
Disappeared9 December 2013 (aged 36) [1]
Douma, Syria[1]
StatusMissing for 7 years, 11 months and 27 days[2]
EducationLaw degree
OccupationHuman rights lawyer
OrganizationLocal Coordination Committees of Syria,[1] Violations Documentation Center in Syria[1]
Known forhuman rights activism during the civil uprising and early insurgency phases of the Syrian Civil War[1]

Razan Zaitouneh (or Zeitunah; Arabic: رزان زيتونة‎; born 29 April 1977) is a Syrian human rights lawyer and civil society activist. Actively involved in the Syrian uprising, she went into hiding after being accused by the government of being a foreign agent[3] and her husband was arrested.[4] Zaitouneh has documented human rights in Syria for the Local Coordination Committees of Syria.[5] Zaitouneh was kidnapped on 9 December 2013, most likely by Jaysh al-Islam. Her fate remains unknown. It is suspected that she has been killed.[1][2]


Zaitouneh graduated from law school in Damascus in 1999 and in 2001 started her work as a lawyer.[citation needed]

Legal and human rights activism[edit]

She has been a member of the team of lawyers for defense of political prisoners since 2001. In the same year, Razan was one of the founders of the Human Rights Association in Syria (HRAS). In 2005, Razan Zaitouneh established SHRIL (the Syrian Human Rights Information Link), through which she continues to report about human rights violations in Syria. From 2005 through to her 2013 disappearance, Razan Zaitouneh was an active member of the Committee to Support Families of Political Prisoners in Syria.

Syrian State television aired announcement that Razan Zaitouneh was a foreign agent on 23 March 2011, after which she went into hiding while continuing her legal and human rights work, in order to avoid being arrested.[6]

Zaitouneh founded the Violations Documentation Center in Syria in April 2011 to document human rights violations and abuses in the country by all sides.[7] She also contributed to human rights violations reports circulated by the Local Coordination Committees of Syria,[5] of which she was one of the founders.[1]

Her husband, Wael Hamadeh (or Wael Hamada, or Wa'el Hammada) was arrested on 12 May 2011. His brother 'Abd al-Rahman Hammada was also arrested. Wael Hamadeh was questioned in prison about his wife's human rights work, then Wael Hamadeh released on 1 August 2011.[8]

On 27 October 2011, she was awarded the 2011 Sakharov Prize for Freedom of thought, jointly with four other Arabs.[9] She was previously awarded the Anna Politkovskaya Award by Reach All Women in War.[10] In 2013 Razan Zaitouneh was granted the International Women of Courage Award.[11]

2013 disappearance[edit]

Pro-opposition websites reported that on 9 December 2013 Zaitouneh had been kidnapped along with her husband, Wael Hamadeh, and two colleagues, Samira Khalil and Nazem Hammadi, in the opposition-held town of Douma to the north of Damascus.[12][13][14] As of December 2015, their whereabouts were still unknown and the identity of the kidnappers uncertain, although it was suspected that the Islamist Salafi rebel group Jaysh al-Islam was responsible.[15][7]

As of August 2018, the Associated Press (AP) was unaware of significant evidence for Zaitouneh's fate. AP stated clues suggesting that Jaysh al-Islam had detained Zaitouneh and held her in Tawbeh Prison. Jaysh al-Islam denied the claim.[1] One clue was a graffito seen by several witnesses on a prison cell wall stating, "I miss my mother – Razan Zaitouneh, 2016." Another clue was the use of one of the Violations Documentation Center computers, taken together with Zaitouneh in the December 2013 kidnapping, from a Jaysh al-Islam IP address at Tawbeh Prison. Another opposition activist, Mazen Darwish, stated that Zaitouneh was held by Jaysh al-Islam until early 2017.[1] AP judged it likely that Zaitouneh had been killed.[1]

On 17 February 2020, one of the Syrian intelligence agencies declared that it had discovered a mass grave in al-Ub around the eastern Ghouta dictrict, containing around 70 bodies. One of them appeared to be that of Razan Zaitouneh.[16][unreliable source?]

As of March 2021, a criminal complaint was filed in France by the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and the Syrian Center for Media and Freedom of Expression, holding Jaish al-Islam responsible for her abduction.[17]

See also[edit]


Notes and references[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Mroue, Bassem (13 August 2018). "Clues But No Answers in One of Syrian War's Biggest Mysteries". Bloomberg News/AP. Archived from the original on 1 May 2019. Retrieved 1 May 2019.
  2. ^ a b Sanders IV, Lewis; Schülke-Gill, Birgitta; Albadry, Wafaa; Bayer, Julia (15 March 2021). "Razan Zaitouneh — The missing face of Syria's revolution". Deutsche Welle. Retrieved 21 October 2021.
  3. ^ "Syrian Activist In Hiding: 'If We Didn't Believe We Will Win, We Couldn't Bear All This'". Radio Liberty. 7 October 2011. Retrieved 27 October 2011.
  4. ^ Beaumont, Peter (21 May 2011). "Syria's defiant women risk all to protest against President Bashar al-Assad". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 27 October 2011.
  5. ^ a b "Syrian woman activist wins human rights award". Amnesty International. 7 October 2011. Archived from the original on 5 February 2012. Retrieved 5 January 2012.
  6. ^ "SYRIA HUMAN RIGHTS INFORMATION LINK (SHRIL)". PeaceWomen; Women's International League for Peace and Freedom. Retrieved 15 April 2019.
  7. ^ a b Hourani, Noura; Adely, Tariq; Clark, Justin (29 April 2018). "'A person who believed': Remembering Razan Zaitouneh on her 41st birthday". Syria Direct. Archived from the original on 5 August 2020. Retrieved 22 March 2019.
  8. ^ "SYRIA: FURTHER INFORMATION: SYRIAN MAN RELEASED: WA'EL HAMMADA". Amnesty International. 11 August 2011. Retrieved 15 April 2019.
  9. ^ "Three finalists for Sakharov Prize 2011 honouring human rights activists". European Parliament. Retrieved 27 October 2011.
  10. ^ "Razan Zaitouneh (Syria): Winner of the 2011 Anna Politkovskaya Award". Reach All Women in War. Archived from the original on 13 November 2011. Retrieved 27 October 2011.
  11. ^ "Dissident Tibetan Writer Wins The US Government 2013 International Women of Courage Award". VOA Tibetan. Retrieved 4 February 2015.
  12. ^ "اختطاف الناشطة رزان زيتونه في دوما بريف دمشق" [The abduction of activist Razan Zeitouneh in Douma suburb of Damascus]. DayPress (in Arabic). 10 December 2013. Archived from the original on 29 March 2019. Retrieved 4 February 2015.
  13. ^ Alwasl, Zaman (10 December 2013). "Human Rights advocate Razan Zaitouneh kidnapped near Damascus". zamanalwsl.net. Archived from the original on 13 December 2013.
  14. ^ "Syrian opposition activist Razan Zaitouneh kidnapped at gunpoint". Financial Times. Retrieved 4 February 2015.
  15. ^ Pizzi, Michael. "The Syrian Opposition Is Disappearing From Facebook". The Atlantic. Retrieved 8 February 2014.
  16. ^ @WithinSyriaBlog (17 February 2020). "The Syrian intellgince have recovered a body believed to be of opposition activists Razan Zituna" (Tweet) – via Twitter.
  17. ^ "Razan Zaitouneh — The missing face of Syria's revolution". DW. 15 March 2021.
  18. ^ "Razan Zaitouneh (Syria): Winner of the 2011 Anna Politkovskaya Award". Raw in War. Archived from the original on 13 November 2011. Retrieved 18 March 2015.

External links[edit]