Razan Zaitouneh

Sakharov Prize Laureate 2011
zaitouneh Razan Zaitouneh is a Syrian journalist and human rights lawyer who was kidnapped in a rebel-held area in the suburbs of Damascus, on 9 December 2013. She is still missing, believed to be alive, but her whereabouts and captors are yet unknown. Zaitouneh bravely denounced human rights violations by the Damascus regime and rebel fighters alike, despite being threatened. She was kidnapped together with her husband and fellow activist Wael Hamada and two colleagues, poet and lawyer Nazem Hamadi and former political prisoner Samira Khalil, from the office of two groups she founded, the Violations Documentation Centre (VDC) and the Local Development and Small Projects Support Office (LDSPS), in Douma.

Zaitouneh is one of the most prominent and credible civilian activists in the Syrian revolution. Her kidnapping is seen by Syrian commentators as a defining episode in the division taking place in Syria between the civilian forces and the extremists, and an event which has dealt a fatal blow to the Syrian revolution. Her family have appealed for international help to find her and her colleagues.

'We, the family of Razan Zeitouneh, the human rights activist, the lawyer, the writer and, above all, the human being, issue this statement more than three months after the deliberate kidnapping which no party declared responsible for, or issued any statement or request about, in a clear attempt to buy time and suppress the free voice of our daughter along with her colleagues to force them to stop writing and prevent them their right of freedom of expression,' the family said in a statement issued in April 2014 and published by the VDC.

Activists and politicians from all over the world have appealed for their release, including President Schulz. 'On behalf of the European Parliament I call for their immediate release...Her life was threatened by the regime and by the rebel groups for what she was, a courageous young woman who refuses to compromise and continues to fight peacefully for democracy and a free Syria'.

In December 2014, on the first anniversary of her kidnapping, the European Parliament and the Sakharov Prize Network launched a campaign for her release, as did NGOs and activists from all over the world, appealing on social media for her freedom and that of Wael Hamada, Samira Khalil and Nazem Hamadi.