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Day of the Imprisoned Writer
Razan Zaitouneh - Human rights defender and writer
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 Wa’el Hamada (her husband) 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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Please send appeals:
- 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
PEN members are encouraged to:
- Publish articles and opinion pieces in your national or local press highlighting Razan Zaitouneh’s case;
- Organise public events, stage readings, press conferences or demonstrations;
- Share information about Razan Zaitouneh and your campaigning activities for her as well as for all detaineesin Syria via social media
Consider adopting Razan Zaitouneh as an Honorary Member of your Centre. Details of how to campaign for honorary members may be found in the Writers in Prison Committee Handbook, available here.
Zaitouneh had defended political prisoners in Syria since 2001 and played a key role in the promotion and protection of human rights through her brave work as a lawyer, activist and journalist. Since the beginning of the armed conflict in 2011, Zaitouneh defended the human rights of all Syrians. Along with a number of other activists, she established the VDC, which monitors human rights violations and records casualties in Syria. She also co-founded the Local Coordination Committees, which coordinate the network of local groups that document human rights violations in various cities and towns across Syria. Zaitouneh also established the Local Development and Small Projects Support Office, which assists non-governmental organisations in the besieged Eastern Ghouta. As a result of their human rights work, Zaitouneh and her colleagues al-Khalil, Hamada and Hamadi, were threatened by the Syrian authorities. Consequently, they were forced into hiding in 2011 in Douma, a rebel-held area near Damascus, from where they were subsequently abducted. To date, their fate remains unknown.
Zaitouneh and her colleagues appear to have been abducted and arbitrarily deprived of their liberty as punishment for their legitimate activities as human rights defenders. Such actions are prohibited by international humanitarian law and are contrary to international human rights standards. The armed groups in control of the area and the governments who support them should do everything in their power to facilitate the release of Zaitouneh and her colleagues.
Please inform PEN of any action you take and of any responses you receive.
For any further information, please contact Nael Georges, PEN International, Koops Mill Mews, 162-164 Abbey Street, London SE1 2AN | Tel: +44 (0) 207 405 0338 | Email: Nael.Georges@pen-international.org