Today, 9 December 2017, marks four years since the forced disappearance of Razan Zaitouneh, Wael Hamada, Samira Khalil and Nazem Hamadi. After four years, their memories have been and will always be with us as far as our belief in freedom, democracy and human rights has brought us together.
Razan was a Syrian lawyer and human rights activist since her graduation from Damascus University in 1999. She had been a member of the Prisoners of Conscience and Political Prisoners defense team since then. She was also a founding member of the Human Rights Association in Syria and worked there until 2004.
In 2005 Razan founded the first professional rights documentation initiative in Syria, the Syrian Human Rights Information Link to act as a database for the regime’s violations of human rights in the country. She was also active in the Political Prisoners’ Families Support Committee in Syria.
Razan, the human rights advocate, the author, the friend and the partner in weaving the dream of democratic change in Syria, was kidnapped with her political activist husband Wael Hamada, who had been arrested twice in 2011 in an effort by the regime to pressure Razan to surrender, along with their eternal friend Samira Khalil, who was a political prisoner between 1987 and 1991; lawyer and poet Nazem Hamadi, who participated with Razan and other Syrian rights activists in defending Damascus Spring prisoners in 2000 and Damascus Declaration prisoners in 2005.
On this day four years ago, masked men attacked the Local Development and Small Projects Support office and the Violations Documentation Center headquarters, a rights documentation organization founded by Razan and other rights activists in Syria in 2012 to document human rights violations after the start of Syria Spring in March 2011. Four years have passed since Razan Zaitouneh, Samira Khalil, Nazem Hamadi and Wael Hamada were kidnapped in the Eastern Ghouta town of Douma which is controlled by the non-state armed group named Jaish al-Islam (Army of Islam).
Requests to the international community have been going on for four years to pressure sides of the Syrian conflict to disclose the fate of the four kidnapped activists, who were vital elements with their peaceful, rights and civil activism, feared by the parties to the conflict over power in Syria. The crime of disappearance and complicity with it is a clear message to change campaigners in Syria that they will only be allowed death or accepting the status quo regardless of any human rights violations that occur in the country.
For the fourth consecutive year we demand the immediate and unconditional disclosure of the fates of Wael Hamada, Samira Khalil, Razan Zaitouneh, and Nazem Hamadi, their release and bringing to justice all those responsible, those who remain silent on the crime, as well as those who hinder investigations.