Those who follow Syrian events know Razan Zaitouneh. But perhaps those who arrived a little after the beginning of Revolution don’t know this courageous activist, and they don’t even know that today is her birthday. Razan Zaitouneh is a Syrian non-violent activist, lawyer, writer / journalist and active in reporting war crimes committed in Syria – almost since the beginning of the Revolution – by all parties involved in the clashes. Razan has not documented these crimes for almost nine years, because on December 10, 2013, she was kidnapped, most likely by a jihadist group, which established in Douma and who did not tolerate any interference in its affairs. Razan had also denounced their crimes, very similar to those of the regime and asked the leader of this group, Jaish al Islam, to visit their prisons, the answer was a sharp “NO”. Razan receivef threats but decided not to be intimidated, as stated in the following video by Nadim Houri, a member of Human Rights Watch at the time.
The point was that Razan put his nose where he should has not because he didn’t tolerate that these groups, infiltrating into the regions freed from the presence of the regime, also committed crimes and violations.
On the evening of 10 December 2013, a group of hooded people entered into the office of the Violation Documentation Center in Douma, taking away Razan, the activist Samira Khalil who was also working with her in projects to help the bombed and seaged population – especially women – Razan’s husband, was Aldo kidnapped, Wael Hamada, an activist who did his best to bring basic necessities to Douma and Nazem Hammady who coordinated with Wael the work of replenishing goods as well as providing legal assistance, if there had been any need, given that, in addition to being an activist, he is also a lawyer. Since that evening nothing is known about them. This is the last video made by Razan, in Douma, on December 5, 2013.
In the years previous to the Revolution, Razan had supported the Palestinian cause and protested against the war in Iraq, as well as always denouncing the corruption and misdeeds of the Assad clan. Upon becoming a lawyer, he was part of an association for the defense of the rights of political prisoners and a support group for the families of prisoners. On Sundays, outside the court in Damascus, he waited for his clients to ask them how they were treated in prison and what their general conditions were, in the courtroom he denounced the obsolete judicial system according to which all those who were in prison were terrorists, spies of foreign powers or enemies of the regime. It was not uncommon to see her in the cafes around the courthouse, after the hearings, discussing various cases with colleague.
She too was considered a spy by the regime and, when the Revolution began, she had to start living in hiding because she was aware of the fact that she was being sought by the police.
He managed to participate in some demonstrations, denounced the crimes of the regime through articles or in television programs on foreign broadcasters, until then he decided to move to Douma, a city in the province of Damascus, conquered by the rebels, where the regime no longer ruled, but pointed out its presence with bombs and the siege and where various jihadist groups managing also the situation.
Here is his telephone intervention to the Democracy Now program, where Razan told what was happening.
Razan also contributed to create the Local Coordination Committees, groups present in various Syrian cities, which first took care of organizing and documenting the demonstrations, later they were active in helping those in difficulty.
This blonde and slender blue-eyed woman in 2011 received the Anna Politovskaya award, for the courage shown in conflict situation, we talk about conflict since when, after the first peaceful demonstrations, the demonstrators were attacked, wounded, imprisoned, killed, by the regime’s police. It also happened in Daraya, where a group of activists, led by Ghyath Matar and Yahya Shurbaji carried on the non-violent struggle, involving many other people, offering water and roses to the soldiers who were sent to suppress the demonstrations. Razan was a close friend of Ghyath Matar and Yahya Shurbaji, who were captured and killed by the regime. In the speech he gives from his hiding place, for having received the Anna Politovskaya award, he also talked about them.
And this is the letter he wrote to Anna Politovskaya in October 2011:
Syrians people want freedom
“Dear Anna Politkovskaya , I know well that this honor, which bears your name, is not only deserved by me personally, but rather by the sons and daughters of Syria and by the 3,000 martyrs whose blood has been shed in the last 7 months by the same exclusivist criminal mentality that made your own blood shed. I am aware that your passion for truth and the defense of human dignity, for which you gave your life, is but a link in a chain that extends throughout the world, through individuals and entire peoples, who believe in the right to all to live free from oppression, humiliation and submission. Nonetheless, personally conferring this honor on all other Syrians takes on another dimension, as it comes on the fifth anniversary of your death. It means a lot to me to receive an award in your name, Anna, as a Russian citizen – even if the Russian government continues to support the Syrian regime, which for some months has been committing crimes against humanity; crimes that have been documented by international human rights organizations. This vividly simplifies the fact that what we share in humanity transcends languages, nationalities and borders, just as tyranny and corruption share the same essence although they differ in detail. Precisely for this reason, I believe that the battle for freedom, which Syrians have been fighting for months, would bring comfort to your soul: because every step forward towards peace and justice in every part of the world benefits all of humanity. I am aware, Anna, that it would have deeply hurt you to see the passage my country is going through to free itself from a regime that has been perfecting criminal behavior for several decades. Under this regime, tens of thousands of people died in the dark dungeons of its security apparatus, or died in massacres and were buried in mass graves. Hundreds of thousands have suffered the silent and lonely years of detention, forced to express and recite phrases of false loyalty to their executioner, day after day. And after all this, the regime was inherited, like a royal heirloom, from father to son, in an unprecedented act, in a republic. All of this took place amidst deafening Arab and international silence and a level of complicity rarely seen before. The oppressed peoples, meanwhile, have been accused of the tyrant’s crimes. When the Syrian people decided last March to tear down the wall of fear and oppose the violence and humiliation imposed on them by the security apparatus, the ‘he did by himself. They did so without the scent of freedom that blew from Tunisia and Egypt, and the vision of a new homeland that does not steal their being, their future and their children’s dreams. Since then the security apparatus has killed civilians. unarmed, whose commitment to peaceful protest stunned the world for months. To date, according to the Center for Documenting Violations in Syria, there have been 3,242 martyrs, including 199 children and 93 women and girls, and 131 killed under torture. These figures do not represent the actual number of martyrs, as we continue to uncover mass graves and learn of the disappearance of thousands of prisoners. Tanks have besieged our towns and villages, military forces have bombed homes and tortured dozens of people to death, disfiguring them and stealing their organs. Hamzeh al-Khatib, the 13-year-old boy who was arrested, whose body was injured and whose genitals were mutilated, was one of many similar cases. Peaceful protesters were arrested and killed in cold blood. Ghiath Matar, the 26-year-old non-violent activist, died under torture 3 days after his arrest. The regime offered him death after he offered roses and water to the military in one of the demonstrations he was conducting. Activist family members were kidnapped, tortured and executed as a form of punishment – bar none. Zeynab Al-Husni, 19, was an example of what could happen to the families of activists and protesters: She was kidnapped by security forces, tortured and killed just days after her activist brother was killed. mass executions day after day, we find new bodies buried in unmarked graves. Just as we are proud, dear Anna, that you have found faithful friends who kept your name alive to remind us of who you were and what you sacrificed for the sake of truth and human rights, I wish I could recite the names of all our martyrs. , one by one. And I wish I could recite the names of the tens of thousands of people who were, and continue to be, subject to arrest and torture. All of them: children, women, young men and the elderly, all deserve to be honored and immortalized. Because they opened the door to freedom. They opened a door that has been closed for decades, so that we could follow its path, and I would like to remind the world that the Syrian people, who have been victims of all those crimes and yet are still patient and persistent, are made up of people who deserve much more. of complicit silence or timid criticism from those who did not refer to this regime, despite the International Criminal Court acknowledging its crimes.All activists, some of whom we know, are creating a new story for their country and their region. They are creating a homeland and a future from the ashes of violence carried out by one of the most famous authoritarian regimes in the world. And so, Ana Politkovskaya, let’s continue. We continue in your memory and in the memory of all the other symbols of truth and freedom in the world, so that freedom, justice and democracy prevail in our Syria and in the whole world. ”
Razan was in contact with a network of activists and wrote about the demonstrations and what was happening in the rest of Syria.
In 2013 she witnessed and documented the chemical attack on Ghouta, visiting hospitals, talking to people …
Here is her article about the massacre.
Since the beginning of the Revolution, Razan had considered the power that the international community could have in stopping the bloody regime of Bashar al Assad (but this never happened), but above all she believed in the value and determination of people who did not they would never again be held back in their desire to fulfill their dreams of reaching freedom and a better country.
Razan is the Revolution.
Raza is the hope, the will, the courage of the people.
Razan is the struggle against the Assad regime.
Razan is the desire for justice, dignity, freedom.
Razan is the fight against amy kind of injustice. It is the courage to denounce the truth.
The courageous voice of a woman like Razan will never be silenced: happy birthday!
(G. De Luca)