Gariwo: the gardens of the Righteous

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One more year without Razan Zaitouneh

Solidarity for a Righteous woman

A poster demanding Razan's liberation

A poster demanding Razan's liberation

On past 29 April, too, Razan Zaitouneh's family celebrated her birthday without her, demanding justice and working to make sure the thousands cases like hers will not be forgotten. 

Razan is a lawyer and a human rights activist in Syria. In 2005, she founded in Damascus the Syrian Human Rights Information Link, association committed to documenting the violations of human rights in the country. Soon after the beginning of the Arab Spring she founded the local Coordination Committee, the biggest opposition group in the country, that since 2011 held peaceful demonstrations all over the country. She also founded the Centre for the documentation of violations in Syria, an organisation that kept the bodycount of the conflict, retracing who they were and spreading reports about detention conditions in Syria.

Despite the threats she received, Razan kept on committing to the defence of human rights in Syria. on 9 December 2013, though, the young lady was abducted by extremist jihadist groups in Ghuta, an area in the outskirts of Damascus, along with her husband Wael Hammadeh, Samira Khalil and Nazem Hammadi. From then on their whereabouts are unknown and no one has heard of them anylonger.

For her commitment and her great moral value, Razan was awarded with numerous prizes, like the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of thought and the Anna Politkovskaya Award in 2011, as well as the International Women of Courage Award in 2013. Today, Razan is shortlisted for the Martin Ennals Award for the defence of human rights, along with the bloggers of the Ethiopian group Zone 9 and Uighur activist Ilham Tohti.

On 6 March 2015, on European Day of the Righteous, we dedicated a tree and a stone in the Milan Garden of the Righteous to Razan. The ceremony was attended by her sister Rana, who in a moving message reminded us that “refused to run. It was of the utmost importance to her that history record the truth of the revolution, and in order for that to happen, she had to stay in Syria. Razan defended the value of every life. She was determined that no one should be forgotten. I am resolved that she will not be forgotten. With my family, her fellow Syrian activists, and Gariwo, I continue to call for Razan’s immediate and safe release”.

Amnesty International Canada is gathering messages in solidarity or to with Happy Birthday to Razan to be sent to hhomes@amnesty.ca or to be published here on Facebook), which will be delivered to her family during a vigil in Ottawa on 30 April.

29 April 2016

Civil courage

the strength of human dignity

Genocide cases and extreme circumstances of human rights violations, persecutions and deprivation of freedom have occurred all over the world. Those who find the courage to oppose, safeguard their own moral integrity, assessing the duty of truth, reporting the crimes against humanity and struggling to defend the founding value of civil coexistence can be defined as Righteous peopleJournalists like Sihem Bensedrine in Tunisia and writers like Gao Xingjian in China, diplomats like Enrico Calamai in Argentina and artists like Sunila Abeysekera in Sri Lanka, students like Bo Kyi in Burma and (union) activists or politicians like Maria Elena Moyano in Peru, Guillermo Chen in Guatemala, Fannie Lou Hamer in the USA, scientists, lawyers, doctors, intellectuals like Vassili Nesterenko in Belarus, Sylvie Maunga Mbanga in Congo, Halima Bashir in Darfur, Hashem Aghajari in Iran. Not to forget the prominent female figures advocating the rights of women trampled on in many world areas, like Betty Makoni in Zimbawe, Hawa Aden Mohamed in Somalia,  Khalida Toumi Messaoudi in Algeria,  Lydia Chaco in Mexico.
As well as the best-known advocates of human and civil rights like Nelson Mandela in South Africa, Aung San Suu Kyi in Burma, Anna Politkovskaja in Russia, Orhan Pamuk in Turkey, Natasha Kandic in Serbia and Svetlana Broz in Bosnia, Ayaan Hirsi Ali from Somalia, the mothers of Plaza de Mayo in Argentina. 

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