Left to right: Razan, Wael, Samira, Nazem
Eight years ago four brave Syrian activists Samira al-Khalil, Razan Zaitouneh, Wael Hammadeh, and Nazem Hammadi were snatched from their place of work in the city of Douma, Eastern Ghouta. They have not been seen since.
The Douma Four, as they are now known, are prominent human rights defenders who were active in the Syrian revolution of 2011. Their commitment to democracy, equality, and justice made them an inspiration to so many Syrians who share that struggle.
The available clues strongly suggest the culpability of Jaysh al-Islam, which was the de facto authority in Douma at the time and remained so until the Syrian regime reoccupied the city in the spring of 2018.
Despite the abundance of evidence, the armed salafist faction denied its responsibility and did not respond to calls for arbitration issued by friends of the disappeared, nor to a letter delivered by hand to its officials or public appeals to its leadership to help the families know the fate of their disappeared loved ones.
In 2018 Jaysh al-Islam’s prisons and headquarters, which may contain vital information, came under the control of the Assad regime. It is possible that the faction handed over the four activists to the regime either a while after their abduction or when the regime took over Douma.
Today the leaders of Jaysh al-Islam are still at large, based in areas in northwest Syria that are under Turkey’s control. Many of them travel freely to and from Turkey and have business interests in Istanbul and other Turkish cities. Yet until this day none of them have been investigated or held accountable for the disappearance of the Douma 4.
It is time for the United Nations and Turkey to take concrete steps to uncover the fate of the four abductees and give answers to their loved ones.
Every day that passes without information about the Douma 4 means more pain for their families, friends, and the countless Syrians who have not lost the hope for the return of beloved Razan, Samira, Wael, and Nazem. Without answers and justice for all Syrian families whose loved ones have been detained and disappeared, real peace in Syria is not possible.
Sign the petition to urge the United Nations to pressure the Assad regime and its allies to uncover the fate of the four abductees, and demand that Turkey facilitate investigation of Jaysh al-Islam’s leadership through an independent investigation team.
More about the Douma 4:
Razan Zaitouneh is a lawyer and human rights advocate who has defended political prisoners in Syria since 2001. When the Syrian revolution started in 2011, she joined the protest movement and co-funded the Local Coordination Committees to coordinate the work of local groups in cities and towns across Syria. Razan also established the Violations Documentation Center and has won numerous international awards for her work in human rights and civil society.
Samira al-Khalil is a longtime political dissident and human rights activist. She was detained between 1987 and 1991 by the Syrian regime for her activism. She worked with families of the detainees and wrote about detention in Syria. She moved to Douma in 2013, where she wrote about daily life under siege and worked to help women financially support themselves. Her diaries from that period were published in Arabic in a 2016 book, (“Journal of the 2013 Siege of Douma“), edited by her husband, Yassin al-Haj Saleh.
Wael Hammadeh is a human rights activist who was briefly detained by the Assad regime in 2011. He is a cofounder of the Local Coordination Committees and the Violations Documentation Center, and was working to provide humanitarian assistance in Eastern Ghouta prior to his abduction. Wael is married to Razan Zaitouneh.
Nazem Hammadi is a poet, activist, and a passionate defender of the rights of political prisoners. He helped co-found the Local Coordination Committees and worked to provide humanitarian assistance in Eastern Ghouta.