(Published by Freedom House: December 13, 2013)
Freedom House condemns the December 9 abduction of prominent Syrian activist Razan Zaitouneh and calls for her immediate release. Zaitouneh’s disappearance serves as a chilling reminder of the dangers confronting human rights defenders in Syria.
Zaitouneh was reported missing December 10, after her neighbor, who had visited her the previous evening, found Zaitouneh’s apartment ransacked. Zaitouneh’s husband and two other activists who were with Zaitouneh the the night before were also missing. Laptops and files related to Zaitouneh’s work were taken, while money and other valuables were left untouched.
Radical Islamist groups, which threatened Zaitouneh on December 9, may be behind the abduction. A human rights lawyer, Zaitouneh is a co-founder of the opposition-affiliated Local Coordination Committees and leads the Violations Documentation Center, one of the most respected human rights organizations in Syria.
Abductions targeting peaceful activists in the rebel-held areas of northern Syria are part of the grim reality facing human rights defenders in the region. Having originally led the peaceful uprising against the government of Bashar al-Assad, Syria’s human rights community has been targeted by radical Islamist and al-Qaeda affiliated groups, such as Islamic State in Iraq and Syria and Al-Nusra Front.
Freedom House demands the immediate release of Zaitouneh and her colleagues.