What is Zahran Alloush doing to help free Razan Zaitouneh and her colleagues?
The road ahead is still long and riddled with obstacles and mines. The end is still blocked, and what lies beyond it remains unknown – what lies beyond the siege, the revolution, and the war. It is a dream binding us all, as though we were one long human chain carrying pickaxes and moving slowly but steadily down that road. So blessed are those who eventually cross it.
These are the words of iconic Syrian human rights defender, Razan Zaitouneh in the last article she wrote before she was abducted along with three of her colleagues, Wa’el Hamada, Nazem Hamadi and Samira Khalil. All three were taken from the joint office of the Violations Documentation Center (VDC) and the Local Development and Small Projects Support (LDSPS) in Douma, near Damascus, on 9 December 2013 and are believed to be in the custody of an armed opposition group.
The following day, the VDC & LDSPS issued a statement demanding the immediate release of the four activists saying “We also hold all armed groups operating in the area accountable for the safety and safeguard of the Ghouta inhabitants and Razan and her colleagues. We hold them accountable as well for the safe release of Razan and her colleagues and their safe return to their homes.“
Those calls have gone unanswered and the friends and family of Razan and her abducted colleagues remain in the dark about their fate.
Like many other human rights activists, Razan was forced into hiding in 2011 after receiving threats from the Syrian authorities. In the last few months, she also received threats from at least one armed opposition group in the Eastern Ghouta area.
It’s not known who exactly the individuals are who abducted them but the area of Eastern Ghouta, while besieged by government forces, is under the control of a number of armed opposition groups. One such group is Jaysh al-Islam and appeals have gone out to its commander, Zahran Alloush, to ask him to help ensure Razan and her colleagues are released safely. Jaysh al-Islam is one of the most influential groups controlling the Douma area, founded by Alloush after he was released from prison by the Syrian authorities in mid 2011.
Appeals to Alloush for information and assistance include a direct plea to him from the family of Razan who said in a statement in April: “We hold him fully responsible in case any thing distasteful happens to her or to any of her companions because the kidnapping took place in the area under his authority.“
In solidarity with the abducted activists and their families, Amnesty supporters will be tweeting Zahran Alloush to ask him what he is doing to help free Razan and her colleagues. You can too – here’s a suggested tweet:
.@zahran1970 what is Jaysh al-Islam doing in #Douma to set free #RazanZaitouneh & her colleagues? #freerazan #Douma4
Those with contacts within any armed or political opposition group could also call on them to ask Alloush what he is doing to help free Razan and her colleagues. This especially applies to those who signed and support the “Revolutionary Covenant ” recently released by the Islamic Front. Jaysh al-Islam is a member of that coalition and it’s notable the covenant has a point claiming a “respect for human rights”. This would be a good time for them to make good on that commitment with clear actions to help free the abducted activists.
A future free Syria needs non violent activists who promote and protect other people's human rights, people like Razan and her colleagues – they are the hope which authoritarians want to keep in the dark so let’s do all we can, no matter how little, to help free Razan and her colleagues.
Amnesty International & 44 civil society groups issue joint statement (27 May 2014)
Kristyan Benedict is on Twitter as @KreaseChan
Our blogs are written by Amnesty International staff, volunteers and other interested individuals, to encourage debate around human rights issues. They do not necessarily represent the views of Amnesty International.