She Vanished in 2013. The AP Went Looking for Her

Razan Zaitouneh was kidnapped in Douma, Syria
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Aug 13, 2018 10:50 AM CDT
Bits of Clues Emerge in One of Syria War's Big Mysteries
This undated frame grab from video shows Syrian activist Razan Zaitouneh as she sits inside a car in Syria.   (AP Photo)

Razan Zaitouneh earned enemies on all sides of her homeland's civil war. One of Syria's most well-known rights activists, she chanted in protests against President Bashar Assad, but she was also unflinching in documenting abuses by rebels fighting to oust him. Then she vanished. Her fate has been one of the longest-running mysteries of Syria's long conflict. There has been no sign of life, no proof of death since a cold December evening in 2013 when Zaitouneh, her husband, and two colleagues were abducted by gunmen from her office in Douma. Five years later, bits of clues are emerging: a handwritten threat vowing "I will kill you"; a logon from her computer after the kidnappers stole it from her office; possible sightings by witnesses and reports of graffiti on a prison cell wall reading, "I miss my mother—Razan Zaitouneh, 2016."

The clues give strong indications that Zaitouneh was taken by the Army of Islam, the most powerful rebel faction in Douma at the time, and was then likely held in its feared Tawbeh Prison. The Army of Islam vehemently denies any role in her disappearance. It's also likely she was killed, though how long after the abduction is unknown, several friends and colleagues tell the AP. The small hope that she and the others were kept alive in detention was shaken in April, when Syrian government forces retook Douma. Prisoners were released, but Zaitouneh and her colleagues didn't surface. An AP team recently toured the abandoned Tawbeh Prison and interviewed a dozen locals and people who knew Zaitouneh to assemble what's known about her disappearance. Read the full article for much more, including speculation on where she may be buried.

(More Syria stories.)

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