(Zaman Al Wasl)- The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights issued a special report on the anniversary of the kidnapping of four human rights activists, “Razan Zaitouneh, Wael Hamadeh, Nazem Hamadeh, and Samira Khalil.” The four were kidnapped after an unknown group stormed the Center for Documenting Violations in Syria offices in the Eastern al-Ghouta on 09/12/2013, and since that time, no news has emerged about the fate of the kidnapped activists amid continuous worries and fears about their health, safety and fate.
Razan Zaitouneh’s name came to prominence after the start of the Syrian revolutionary movement in 2011, as one of the most important activists defending human rights and freedoms. She had been a principle lawyer in defending political detainees in Syria since 2001, and she continued her activities with the start of the Syrian revolution. She joined, with her colleague the lawyer Nazem Hamadeh, those participating in and defending the revolutionary movement.
Air force intelligence detained Wael Hamada, Razan’s husband, and his brother in the autumn of 2011 to pressure Razan, but the two men were later released.
The Syrian Observatory report explained that Razan and her husband disappeared after that incident, and Nazem Hamada and Samira Khalil continued their activities with great secrecy while facing pressure and harassment from the security forces.
The four activists relocated to Douma city in Damascus countryside after the regime lost control of the city. They continued their work in the Center for Documenting Violations, and Razan established an office for “Local Development and Support for Small Projects” which contributed to helping several non-governmental organizations in the heart of the besieged al-Ghouta area.
Activists hint that Jaish al-Islam is responsible for the abduction of Razan and her colleagues as the group controlled the city of Douma at the time of the kidnapping. Jaish al-Islam repeatedly denied the accusation, but without giving clear answers according to the activists.
In a related context, the Syrian author Yassin al-Haj Saleh published an extensive report questioning the innocence of the legal office subordinate to Jaish al-Islam for the forced disappearance of Samira, Razan, Wael and Nazem. He called for the liberation of the four activists; Samira Khalil is his wife. Saleh wrote, “This is the demands of justice, and it is easiest exit for the perpetrators themselves.” He added, “The issue will not grow old, not only because we will exert every effort for it not grow old, but also because it is the nature of forced disappearances not to grow old.
As the family of the two women and two men kidnapped we cannot stop thinking about them or working for their salvation, and pressuring their kidnappers. Three years after the crime, we are no less persistent or perseverant in pursuing this self-defense. We ask for help, and demand it from all those able to give it, and firstly from the people of Douma and Eastern al-Ghouta.”
Saleh mentioned in his impugning that, “A women saw Mrs Razan in the prison subordinate to Jaish al-Islam,” and confirmed, “I was informed of this, and it may be true or false, but I only adopt verifiable testimonies which can be defended before an independent judicial body.”
He continued, “The problem is not that this woman is unknown or no one mentioned her name, as I know her name, but I am not sure if what is attributed to her is true, or if she is willing to offer a trustworthy witness account in the case.”
The legal office subordinate to Jaish al-Islam mentioned evidence that proves the innocence of Jaish al-Islam drawing on general phrases among them, “Jaish al-Islam’s history and the testimony of the accusers.” Saleh commented that, “These general considerations are insufficient to serve as grounds to deny or confirm their lack of involvement let alone to be considered evidence as in the history of Jaish al-Islam there are prisons were detainees are tortured, assassinations happen, and there is great contribution to the destruction of besieged Doumani society.
The history of the Jaish is insufficient to remove suspicion of the Jaish’s involvement in the crime of kidnapping the four.”