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Syrian human rights defender Razan Ghazzawi winner of the 2012 Front Line Award for Human Rights Defenders at Risk
Razan Ghazzawi is a Syrian human rights defender and blogger who has been at the forefront of promoting freedom of expression and a free media in her country. Following several threats she was arrested for the first time on 4th December 2011 at the Syrian-Jordanian border as she was on her way to attend a workshop on media and freedom of expression in the Arab world. She was released after two weeks.
She was re-arrested on 16th February together with a number of her colleagues from the Syrian Centre for Media and Freedom of Expression (SCM). Razan was released together with five female colleagues on 19th February and ordered to report on a daily basis to the Air Force Intelligence. The head of the SCM, Mazen Darwish, and seven other male colleagues remain in incommunicado detention and there are grave fears they may be being tortured. According to human rights lawyer Anwar Al Bunni, the authorities are investigating the sources of information used by the SCM, as well as its origin of funding.
Human rights defenders in Syria have faced harassment, arbitrary arrests and detention, unfair trials, prolonged imprisonment, torture and 'disappearance' by Syrian security forces for many years but there has been an increase in repression as a result of the brutal crackdown against protesters in the country. Online monitoring and censorship of the internet is commonplace, with frequent allegations that the Government has blocked access to internet sites used by human rights defenders. The Government has banned hundreds of human rights defenders from travelling abroad and prominent human rights defenders have been arrested on their return to Syria after travelling abroad to attend conferences and workshops on human rights issues.
Since the start of the Syrian uprising, nearly a year ago, Razan, an English literature graduate from Damascus University, has become a symbol of the opposition to the government and their repression. She is known for her fierce criticism of the Syrian government, mostly expressed on her blog Razaniyyat (razanghazzawi.com), and via her twitter account @RedRazan.
Razan Ghazzawi is a tireless defender of human rights, not only in her native Syria but throughout the Arab world and beyond. She is an active blogger who also works for the SCM advocating for journalists and bloggers under threat in Syria and the rest of the region. She has stood up for minority rights, including LGBT rights in the Arab world, Palestinian equal rights, and most recently, has fought hard for the Syrian revolution, to her own peril. She is constantly reviewing her points of view, and constantly rethinking and re-imagining how best to be an advocate.
Upon her most recent release she wrote: “As you might have heard, the office in which I work at was raided by Air Force security branch on Thursday 16-2-2012. My boss, friend and mentor, Mazen Darwich, along with 8 male colleagues and friends, are still in detention since that day at the air force security branch, known to be the worst security branch in Syria.
I spent only 3 nights there along with five other female colleagues, those three nights were the longest hours of my life. You know that I was detained previously for two weeks, which was my first experience with detention, but those 3 nights at air force security branch were the worst in comparison to my previous detention.”
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