Gariwo: the gardens of the Righteous

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Razan Zaitouneh 1977

a human rights advocate in Syria

Razan Zaitouneh, born on 29 April 1977, is a lawyer and human rights activist in Syria. In 2005 she founded in Damascus the Syrian Human Rights Information Link, association committed to documenting human rights violations in the country. Due to her engagement she was forbidden to leave the country as early as in 2002.

Thereafter, Razan also supported the “Committee of the relatives of political prisoners in Syria”. Besides being one of the founders of the “Committee of local coordination” – the biggest opposition group within Syria, that had been helding peaceful demonstrations all over the country since 2011 – at the out break of civil war she founded the Violations Documentation Center (VDC), an organization that counted the death toll of the conflict, giving them back their names and faces, and spreading reports about jail conditions in Syria.

For her commitment and great moral value, Razan Zaitouneh was awarded numerous prizes such as the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of thought, the Anna Politkovskaya Prize in 2011, and the International Women of Courage Award in 2013.

In December 2013, Razan was abducted in Ghuta, in the hinterland of Damascus, with three coworkers: Wael Hammadeh – Razan’s her husband, who has been arrested many times by the Syrian regime -, Samira Khalil and Nazem Hammadi. Since then their wherabouts have been unknown. After Razan’s abduction, the United Nations sospended the death count in Syria.

Her abduction was a harsh blow to Syria’s civil society, for which Razan was a symbol of peaceful rebellion against extremism. "Her abduction marked a step forward towards the complete radicalization between two evil forces: the regime and Islamist fanatics – said after her abduction the spokesperson of the local Coordination Committee, Assaad al-Achi -. Our only hope is that now the outrage for what has happened to her unites people to cast out all extremists once and for all”.

The Righteous against fundamentalism

for a cultural battle against Islamic terrorism

In front of wars, extremist terrorism and crime against humanity that cyclically history faces, our aim is to spread around the world the histories of good, humanity and solidarity that are often set apart from the public scene.

What leads the heart of some individuals to sacrifice and maybe peril in facing those who promote terror and death, is the pure love for human diversity.

The narrative beyond these righteousness against fundamentalism is an attractive force, which can dismantle any argument of those that, by the use of religion as a shield, commit the cruelest crimes against humanity.

The sole path available for defeating terrorists, is to engage ourselves in a great cultural battle which will deprive them of any form of legitimation.

We must shut out that those suiciding martyrs of terror who spread deaths, are the worst men and still remind us of the nazis.

Our deep desire is that all these histories about moral courage by these righteous arabs and muslims, must be known in Italy and Europe so that we can forge a great alliance between europeans, arabs and muslims with a common enemy.