WITHOUT A TRACE: Armed gunmen not affiliated with the regime were likely behind the kidnapping of one of Syria’s best-known human rights activists, Razan Zeitouneh, one of her colleagues told Syria Direct on Wednesday.
Zeitouneh, her husband Wael Hamida and two of their colleagues from the Violation Documentation Center, Samerah al-Khalel, Nazim al-Hmmadi, were kidnapped on Monday after armed men stormed their office in the blockaded East Ghouta suburb of Duma at around 11pm. The Duma LCC announced 4 VDC activists were missing on Tuesday morning.
“Of course it’s one of the unknown armed groups inside here, we don’t think it’s the regime,” VDC spokesman Bassam al-Ahmad told Syria Direct.
Zaitouneh, along with most of the volunteers for the VDC, have attempted to maintain a low profile from the beginning of the uprising while the Center catalogued killings, tortures and disappearances across Syria, particularly in the capital and the surrounding areas. Zeitouneh’s home was periodically raided by government security forces before the Syrian uprising, and her husband and his brother, Abdulrahman Hamida, had both been arrested by regime forces and imprisoned in solitary confinement.
The VDC was especially prominent as it gathered evidence suggesting government accountability in the August 21st chemical attacks in East Ghouta, and kept weekly and monthly tallies of the killed and missing.
Despite the danger, Zeitouneh refused to leave Syria. “I will never leave this country – never,” she told a French television station in a 2005 interview.
In a blog entry, Zeitouneh went beyond data collection to add personal reflections of Syria’s agony. In recent months, Zaitouneh and the VDC had begun documenting the abuses of armed groups such as ISIS and speaking out against the radical Islamist extremists that she believed were detrimental to a revolution about democracy, freedom and dignity.
"It is of no use to try to emulate any part of one’s former life under the siege,” Zeitouneh wrote on November 18th. “Certain essentials of one’s previous life no longer exist. Youths recently staged a protest calling for the release of one of their friends who was kidnapped by ISIS.”
Zaitouneh was born on April 29, 1977. She got her law degree in Damascus and established the VDC in 2005. In October 2011 she received Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought, because of her work documenting the Syrian regime violations against human rights.
In the video above, she leads a rally in August 2011 in Harasta, a neighborhood near Duma in the Damascus suburbs of Ghouta, presiding over hundreds of demonstrators calling for political freedoms. “The civil disobedience will last till Bashar al-Assad falls," she says.
She opposed the Syrian regime years before the Syrian uprising, defending the Syrian regime’s political detainees.
“I have psychologically prepared myself to be arrested at any moment,” Zeitouneh said in 2005. “I’m not afraid.”
December 11, 2013.
Video courtesy of FreeShamSon.