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Razan Zaitouneh

Razan Zaitouneh

HRD
Violations Documentation Centre

The most beautiful part of the Syrian revolution is the high spirits of the Syrian people, who turned the protests into carnivals of song, dancing and chants of freedom, despite the bullets, arrests and tanks

Razan Zaitouneh is a prominent Syrian human rights lawyer, activist, and journalist. In 2005, she founded the website Syrian Human Rights Information Link (SHRIL). Written in Arabic and English, it has served as one of the few respected sources of information on killings, arrests, and human rights violations committed during the Syrian uprising. Razan has dedicated her life to defending political prisoners, documenting crimes against humanity, and helping others free themselves from oppression. This resulted in a travel ban in 2002. Following the beginning of the conflict in 2011, she founded the Violations Documentation Center (VDC), which documents the death toll and ill-treatment in Syria's prisons. With the VDC, she compiled lists of the detained, the executed, and the disappeared. On December 9, 2013, a group of masked gunmen stormed the VDC office in Douma, near Damascus, and kidnapped Razan along with her husband, Wael Hamada, and two colleagues. Their whereabouts remain unknown.

The situation for human rights defenders (HRDs) in Syria has rapidly deteriorated since the beginning of the government's violent crackdown against nation-wide peaceful protests in 2011. HRDs, who already faced significant difficulties in remaining active under a highly repressive regime, have since been at even higher risk of direct targeting and persecution, including arbitrary arrest and detention, malicious prosecution, death threats, restrictions on their freedom of movement, abduction, defamation, and other forms of harassment and intimidation.