On the dark night of December 9, 2013, masked gunmen stormed the Violations Documentation Center in Douma and kidnapped four of its members: Razan Zeitouneh, Samira Khalil, Wael Hamadeh and Nazem Hammadi. Although it happened in an area controlled by opposition militias, the incident was a stark reminder of the regime’s tactics.
The four kidnapped activists were prominent proponents of the Syrian uprising from its early days, and their work on documenting the human rights violations exacted on Syrians was widely acknowledged. Their kidnapping exposed the fractious nature of an uprising under assault from all sides. To many, this was a clear sign of the uprising’s need to exorcise its own demons.
Today, Tuesday May 27, 2014, Syrian grassroots activists, journalists, intellectuals and the families of the detained, as well as national and international human rights and media organizations come together to launch a concerted campaign to free the #Douma4.
The campaign started with a statement released by the members and organizations involved open for signatures:
Kidnapping Razan,Samira, Wael and Nazem is a betrayal to the Syrian Revolution and an insult to the Syrian people, especially Douma’s people. To have unknown masked men kidnapping four unarmed activists, and hiding them from the world, is something that people won't forget and history won't ignore. We, families of the four kidnapped, call on the residents, rebels and activists of Douma to help reveal the fate of the four and release them immediately, honored and revered. We also call on all Syrians capable to help provide useful information about the kidnapped and the kidnappers and work on ensuring the safety of the four. We hold their captors responsible for their well-being, and we demand their immediate and unconditional release.
SyriaUntold, itself a signatory on the above statement, spoke to the coordinators of the campaign on what they hoped to achieve. Asaad al-Ashi explains that the campaign is aimed at several audiences: “First, the international community, so as to raise awareness of the incident, and to demand that they exert pressure on their allies in the Gulf, who may be able to pressure the armed opposition in Syria for the unconditional release of the detained.”
“We also want to address this to the Syrian people, to remind them of the importance of the kidnapped activists and their central role in the revolution. In particular to the local population of Douma and Eastern Ghouta, and ask them to pressure the local opposition militias in their towns for the immediate release of the activists,” al-Ashi continues.
So far there has been no contact whatsoever with the detainees. The activists, however, believe that they are being held in the Douma countryside at a detention center under the control of al-Nusra Front, and the Army of Islam militias. Nevertheless, the campaign coordinators stress that there is no confirmed information on their exact whereabouts primarily for the lack of cooperation from the Army of Islam militias, the largest armed faction in the area.
A statement of support for the campaign was also issued by 45 leading national and international human rights organizations including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch. The statement called for the immediate release of the detainees and urged “ both government and armed opposition groups to stop arbitrarily arresting, abducting and detaining people for their peaceful, journalistic, and humanitarian activities – in line with United Nations Security Council resolution 2139, which demands the release of all arbitrarily detained people in Syria.”