Four activists, among them internationally acclaimed non-violent activist Razan Zaitouneh, from Syria's Violations Documentation Center (VDC) were kidnapped by unidentified masked gunmen from the center's Douma office on the outskirts of Damascus, the Syrian capital, reported Activist News Association.
Zaitouneh, along with her team made up of Nazem al-Hamadi, Sameera Alkhalil and Wael Hamadah, were abducted on December 9, with no news of their whereabouts, sparking an international outcry.
Following their abduction, Douma's local committee issued a statement condemning the act, adding that the ransacking of the VDC office too was shameful and likened it to the work of Assad's regime [Arabic]:
The statement reads [ar]:
Douma woke up today [Tuesday, December 10, 2013] to the news of an attack on the Violations Documentation Center (VDC) in Syria and the arrest of activist Razan Zaitouneh and her team, who have exerted their efforts in the support of this revolution and who have previously been arrested by the oppressive regime more than once. They have lived with us during our seige, stemming from the belief and true work is conducted from the battle ground and not on the pages of the Internet. We, in the local city council, condemn this cowardly act, which is similar to that of the regime, and call upon all the military groups and revolutionary forces to follow up on this case, which is a stain of shame on Free Douma.
On their behalf, Syria's Local Coordinators Committee, founded by Zaitouneh, demanded the release of all four activists and asked all human rights advocates to join the LCC's campaign. They also said that the abducted activists were highly inspired by Mandela, who recently passed away, adding that:
At a time when the world is mourning the death of Nelson Mandela, we must remember that there are other Mandelas around the world. These activists were inspired and informed by Mr. Mandela’s work, and were promoting concepts of nonviolence and civil resistance in Syria even at a time when the regime has violated every possible tenet of human rights. Failure to call for their release is tantamount to failing in all that Human Rights defenders stand for in the call against tyranny.
According to a decree issued by Eastern Ghouta civic agencies, Zaitouneh received several threats prior to her kidnapping by both the regime and extremist insurgents while working in the Damascene district.
In a Facebook post, writer Yassin Al Haj Saleh, Alkhalil's husband, said their abduction is an insult to Syria and its revolution. He also asked those who can help to do so quickly.
سميرة الخليل (زوجتي) ورزان زيتونة ووائل حمادة وناظم حمادي معتقلين من البارحة بدوما.
الرجاء ممن يستطيع المساعدة أن يتصرف بسرعة.
اعتقال سميرة ورزان ووائل وناظم إهانة للثورة ولسورية.
Sameera Al-Khalil (my wife), along with Razan Zaitouneh, Wael Hamadah and Nazem al-Hamadi have been arrested since last night in Douma. Whoever can help, please take action soon. Arresting Sameera, Razan, Wael and Nazem is an insult to the revolution and to Syria.
Twitter users, too, began mobilizing a virtual campaign demanding the release of Zaitouneh and her colleagues. United States-based Syrian activist Rafif Jouejati marked their abduction as an indicator of humanity's death:
— Rafif Jouejati (@RafifJ) December 10, 2013
She also urged the global community to act as being silent is harmful to the cause:
If we let them get away with THIS, the whole world will have failed the cause of human rights. #Free_RazanZaitouneh & other activists#Syria
— Rafif Jouejati (@RafifJ) December 10, 2013
Bahraini activist Maryam Alkhawaja remarked that the least the global community can do to help such a remarkable person is to collectively raise awareness on the act:
Razan Zaitouneh chose to stay in #Syria to struggle against an oppressive regime, least we can do is make noise about her kidnapping
— Maryam Alkhawaja (@MARYAMALKHAWAJA) December 10, 2013
Executive Director of the Syrian Nonviolence Movement Ibrahim al-Assil added that Zaitouneh is a true revolutionary:
— Ibrahim al-Assil (@iAssil) December 10, 2013
BBC Reporter Kim Ghattas said that Zaitouneh's kidnapping is a terrible blow to what's left of Syria's secular opposition:
Kidnapping of activist @razanz in Syria is awful news, yet another, terrible blow to what's left of Syria secular/peaceful opposition
— Kim Ghattas (@BBCKimGhattas) December 10, 2013
Zaitouneh's accomplishments are nothing short of daring and courageous. She was awarded the 2011 Anna Politkovskaya award; the 2011 Sakharov Prize; and the 2013 International Women of Courage Award.
Her most recent work includes being among the first on site in the August 21 chemical weapon's attack on Ghouta, as Foreign Policy Middle East Editor David Kenner noted:
Shouldn't forget Razan Zaitouneh's groundbreaking work documenting the Aug 21 sarin attack – one of 1st on the scene. http://t.co/S7PHC0neWJ
— DavidKenner (@DavidKenner) December 10, 2013
Amnesty International UK Campaigns Manager Kristyan Benedict remarked that their kidnapping happens to coincide with Human Rights Day:
— kristyan benedict (@KreaseChan) December 10, 2013
Zaitouneh's work along with her abducted colleagues helped Syrians document their losses and grievances along the country's course of havoc since 2011. The VDC keeps a tremendous track of those abducted and always calls for their immediate release. Their work and contributions are essential not only to the revolution but also Syria's future. Their abduction harms every hopeful and positive aspect in today's misshaped Syria.