Human rights lawyer from Syria
Razan Zaitouneh is a 34-year-old human rights lawyer from Syria who has gone into hiding after being accused by the government of being a foreign agent - for her reporting on the internet and to foreign media daily accounts of the atrocities against civilians in Syria. The government has imposed a strict ban on access for foreign journalists and human rights advocates to Syria and Razan’s information website – ShRIL – became the main source of information abroad about the killings and torture of civilians by the army and police in Syria.
Razan Zaitouneh described the day that she went into hiding in the following way: ‘On March 23, after the massacre at the Omari mosque in Dera’a, to which protesters had retreated. That day security forces surrounded the mosque and brutally attacked it. I gathered information from Dera’a and passed it on to international media. Subsequently, Syrian state television defamed me as a foreign agent. So I knew they would come to get me soon. I gathered the most necessary things and left my apartment’. Razan Zaitouneh gathers her information for the foreign media through a network of political activists and human rights defenders.
On 12 May 2011 government security agents entered the home of Razan Zaitouneh and searched it, while seeking to arrest her. It is reported that when they failed to find her, they arrested her husband, Wa'il Al-Hamada, who was held incommunicado in an unknown location for almost three months and reportedly tortured. He was released on 31 July 2011. The arrest of Wa'il Al-Hamada followed the arrest on 30 April of his brother, 'Abd-al- Rahman Al-Hamada, a 20-year-old student. The two men were apparently held as pawns to force Razan Zaitouneh to surrender herself to the government and to punish her for her human rights work. Razan Zaitouneh's elderly parents have also been reportedly forced to hide to escape arrest.
Razan Zaitouneh was born on 29 April 1977. She graduated from law school in 1999 and in 2001 started her work as lawyer. She has been a member of the team of lawyers for defense of political prisoners since 2001. In the same year, Razan was one of the founders of the Human Rights Association in Syria (HRAS). In 2005, Razan Zaitouneh established SHRIL (the Syrian Human Rights Information Link), through which she continues to report about human rights violations in Syria. Since 2005, Razan Zaitouneh is also an active member of the Committee to Support Families of Political Prisoners in Syria.