Douma4: We Will Never Stop

06 January 2015

Steadfastness has long been the prominent feature of the Syrian civil movement. From jubilant dances in protests to grassroots initiatives, the Syrian uprising is packed with scenes of peaceful defiance. Even today, fatigue has not yet gotten the best of Syrian activists, as they continue to battle against all odds to keep their cause alive. The campaign demanding the release of the Douma4 activists is reminiscent of such relentless defiance.

Lunched by Syrian activists, journalists and media organizations, the international campaign aims to bring attention to the plight of the eminent Syrian human rights defenders Razan Zaitouneh, Samira Khalil, Wa’el Hamada and Nazem Hamadi, one year after their abduction on December 9, 2013.

In commemoration of that event, the campaign's operators organized several activities calling to uncover the fate of the disappeared activists. The Socialist Forum organized a sit-in, in solidarity with Zaitouneh, her colleagues and all Syrian detainees. The sit-in took place in Beirut, on December 9, 2014, with the participation of a number of organizations including: SyriaUntold, Voice of Women, Walls of Beirut, Network of Female Syrian Journalists, the Syrian People Knows Its Way, and others.

Participants in the sit-in in Paris, France. Source: Syrian Freedom Facebook page.

In parallel, friends of the kidnapped activists organized a sit-in in Paris, to demand their immediate release, as well as that of all the detainees in Syria. The sit-in witnessed the participation of renowned Syrian artists and intellectuals, including: Samih choukeir, Subhi Hadidi, Hala Abdallah, Osama Mouhammed, Samar Yazbek, among others.

On a local level, a graffiti campaign was initiated by the supporters of the Douma4 inside Syria. Graffitis of the faces of the kidnapped activists along with the famous slogan “kidnapping revolutionaries is treason” were painted on the walls of Western Ghouta, Daraa, Latakia, Hama's countryside and Douma.

Since the disappearance of Zaitouneh and her colleagues, no one has had any information on their wellbeing or whereabouts. This has prompted activists to repeat their accusations of the Army of Islam, headed by Zahran Alloush, for abducting the Douma4. These accusations stem from the fact that Alloush's armed groups were the ones exercising de-facto control over Douma, where the activists were kidnapped.

The families of the Douma4 believe they have evidence to back up these accusations. Author Yassin al-Haj Saleh, the husband of abducted activists Samira Khalil, published some of these threats on his Facebook page. “A death threat was placed on the front door of Razan's apartment, shortly before her forced disappearance,” al-Haj Saleh wrote, “the person who wrote the threat is detained at the Douma Jurisdiction. Several sources have indicated that he was ordered to write the threat by the Shoura Council in Douma, the religious arm of the Army of Islam.”

Nevertheless, the global interest in this issue has stirred up criticism. The campaign was censured for being selective in defending the cause of four activists at the expense of thousands of other detainees held across the region in the hands of governments and armed factions. In an interview with SyriaUntold, Shireen Hayek, member of The Day After (TDA), argued that the growing attention towards the issue stems from the symbolism of the four activists. “Kidnapping a famous figure like Razan Zaitouneh threatens the overall activity in the field of human rights and not Razan alone.”

Nevertheless, Hayek emphasized that the cause of Syrian detainees will not be silenced until each and every one of them is freed. This challenge is mirrored in the statement of Yassin al-Haj Saleh: “We will defend ourselves and our loved ones with all our strength, and we will never stop.”

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Illustation by Dima Nechawi Graphic Design by Hesham Asaad