I don’t know how to write this post. It’s been a while since a shed I tear on a friend’s detention – it happens a lot, it happens to almost everyone who decides to join the revolution against the state.
But it’s Razan. Tireless Razan. Stubborn Razan, who defines the word “courage” with the amount of work – pressure – she deals with daily in besieged Ghouta, and before that in checkpoint-ed Damascus.
Douma, where Razan and her colleagues are based, is a small city with no electricity whatsoever, not enough food, incredibly expensive living conditions due to regime blockade. For example, the fuel costs there 800 SP. It costs 50 SP before the revolution.
Razan the woman revolutionary in a male-dominated military war.
“Freedom to Razan Zeitounah, Kafranbel, Idleb”.
I don’t know her much personally, we are certainly not friends. We met twice in our life time. Once couple of years before the revolution and once few days prior to the revolution. We though, are good at exchanging emails, I am the who usually sends her lots of emails about work and possible cooperation and many times asking for her opinions in matters related to my safety.
I have a confession to make and perhaps it’s a weird one but I’ll say it anyways: I am jealous at any other activist who speaks casually to her and who gets to talk to her personally. I am jealous at the Facebook “likes” she puts on other mutual friends but never – yes I am writing these words- on my statuses..
Razan is my mentor, she doesn’t know it. And I am jealous if she prefers other activists over me.
In this post I shall write what I know of Razan before the revolution. I shall write the next post on her work during the revolution.
Razan Zeitounah Before the Revolution
1- Razan’s strength is legendary. She never left Syrian lands ever since the revolution started March 2011. She left her home before the revolution started knowing that the regime will raid her home – she was banned from traveling since 2007 or 2008 due to her work in human rights. She was the founder of (http://shril-sy.info/) a website that’s down now – since there was no time for her to renew it. Syrian Human Right Information Link (SHRIL) was Razan’s archive site that combined all statements and information of state’s human rights violations against its citizens. It was a priceless website even though its idea was simple, but to me it was the number one information on Syria’s underground uncensored world.
2- Razan used to visit political detainees and prisoners of conscious’ families and was closely in touch with them and checks on them and tries to get information on the detainees. She was actually one of the sources of Sednaya prison ‘s massacre occurred 2008. One prisoner was hiding a mobile telephone and managed to make a phone call to report on the massacre was being carried. Razan was one of those who followed the case closely – of course all underground.
3- Razan was one of the tens of Syrians who attended opposition salons and discussed public affair in Syria especially with relation to state corruption and dictatorship. Such meetings were arranged with few trusted circles and many of those who attended the meetings are all revolutionaries now and most of them actually hold positions in either Syrian National Council or Syrian Coalition. (Razan decided to stay in Syria and be a revolutionary instead).
4- Razan was the lawyer who guided us, bloggers, with the campaign to free Syrian blogger Tareq Baiasi. Tareq was I think the first blogger to be detained in Syria and the campaign was the first of its kind as far as I know in Syrian blogsphere. Blogger Ahmad Abu Al-Kher was the founder of the campaign and I joined to help with the English page.
Razan was helping us and teaching us how to advocate for Tareq’s freedom and how to write statements and that was the first time I myself ever read articles of the Syrian constitution.
One incident I remember vividly about Razan and I, an incident that made me I think mature a bit, is when she yelled at me for calling another fellow blogger a traitor upon our disagreement on Israel’s war on Gaza 2008. I met her and her husband, Wael Hamada (who’s also kidnapped with Razan) in Old Damascus and we all walked to their place. I sat next to her and looked at me and said in a firm tone something like:
“We don’t accuse one another of treason. This is not our language. This is the regime’s language that use such treason discourse against its citizens to discredit them.”
I don’t think I look up to someone as I look up to Razan. She is the one person in this world. The one person. Who can yell at me non-stop for five minutes and I’d say not a word back at her. Because I know her, she’s as harsh on herself as she is on the people around her.
I want her back walking on the lands that deserve her. I want her to breath the air of freedom she works so hard to attain. I want her safe and I want her back.
Freedom to Zeitounah (Olive in Arabic), Samira, Nazem and Wael. Down with the criminals who kidnapped them!