Razan Zaitouneh is a human rights defender, blogger, lawyer and co-founder of the Violations Documentation Centre in Syria (VDC). On 9 December 2013, Zaitouneh, along with her colleagues Samira al-Khalil, Nazem Hamadi and her husband Wa’el Hamada – now known as the Douma 4 – were abducted during a raid on the offices of the VDC in Douma, near Damascus, by a group of armed men. They had been documenting human rights violations after fleeing the Syrian government-controlled area. There has been no news of their whereabouts since their abduction, but they are presumed to be detained by an armed Islamic group in control of Douma.
Reem Zaitouneh, Razan’s sister, who is a writer and human rights activist told PEN:
To think that you are a part of the world around you; to feel that you are not a lonely tiny creature compared to the universe; is a great start to be a human being, is a great start to be an audible voice of the world. In this way Razan started to write down her first letters. Her feeling that she can make the difference, her feeling that she could catch the light, was her guide to continue and never to stop. She believed in people and in their power to demand their own rights, so she kept writing and working with her people to encourage them to optimise this power, while she was trying to deliver their messages to the world. She wrote about social issues, and women and political detainees.
Her pen was very strong, which induced her enemy to try breaking it, so she was kidnapped and her kidnappers still refuse to admit it. Razan has left a great emptiness in the revolution! As for me, I felt of the pain of the two edged sword. Her absence affected me on both levels: the personal and the professional, as her sister and a human rights activist.
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Share information about Razan and her colleagues with friends, in national and local press and on social media. #Douma4
Read and share work by award-winning writer Vahni Capildeo written in support of the Douma 4 for the 2017 English PEN Modern Literature Festival here.
Send letters of appeal
- Expressing concern at the continued detention of prominent human rights lawyer and writer Razan Zaitouneh, as well as hundreds of thousands of Syrians;
- Calling on armed non-state actors operating in Syria as well as the Syrian authorities to end their policy of arbitrary detention, torture, and extra-judicial killings and to release immediately and unconditionally all those held in detention for exercising their rights to freedom of expression and opinion;
- Calling on all parties to immediately disclose the whereabouts of those who are subject to enforced disappearance and to grant them access to their family and medical care;
- Calling on all parties to comply with International Human Rights Law, as well as International Humanitarian Law;
- Calling on the United Nation to ensure that all parties work towards a political transition in Syria which will put an end to this on-going conflict and the massive human rights violations it continues to create.
H.E. Mr. António Guterres
Secretary-General of the United Nations
Executive Office of the Secretary-General
S-3800, United Nations Secretariat Bldg
New York, NY 10017, USA
President of the United Nations Security Council
405 East 42nd Street – New York, NY, 10017, USA
Prince Zeid Bin Ra’ad Al-Hussein
The High Commissioner for Human Rights of the United Nations
Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR)
Palais des Nations
CH-1211 Geneva 10, Switzerland