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.
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 beginning of the Syrian uprising, Razan, an English literature graduate from Damascus University, became a symbol of the opposition to the government and their repression.
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. 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.
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.”
Razan Ghazzawi was the winner of the 2012 Front Line Award for Human Rights Defenders at Risk
A little background on Midan neighborhood: Midan neighborhood is one of the first neighborhoods that rebelled in the Syrian capital, it witnessed huge demonstrations calling for the downfall of Assad. It’s a conservative area.
In the beginning of the revolution protesters used to head to Midan to take part in protesters. The neighborhood is in the center of Damascus.
I arrived Midan with a friend at 12:30 PM today 18-7-2012, there was a shooting very close to us but we managed to arrive safely. I cannot share my location with you in Midan, nor can I say who’s with me here. We are safe so far.
Clashes started early in the morning and it’s still on, we sometimes hear explosions every now and then, the residents of area here are telling us there are BMB tanks shelling the center of the area.
There are several checkpoints in the area, but the area we’re in right now is relatively safe thus far, there are four people martyred today in Midan alone; 3 from Free Syrian Army and the fourth is a civilian- an old man we couldn’t find his ID with him, we’re in the process of getting his name.
Update: 3:02 PM: Clashes now in Haa’la area in Midan.
Update: 3:15 PM: The activists here are in high spirit, it’s hectic over here but we smoke and drink tea (I am drinking tea now) and we joke all the time.
Update from 3:30 PM till 8:00 PM: Regime tried to raid the neighborhood in this way: the army withdrew, but the tanks remained around the area in attempt to siege it and was shelling on the area, then the snipers gathered heavily in the area, along with aircrafts hovering around the area to locate the activists, doctors and free Syrian army.
It’s important to say here that the field hospital was located by the regime and tried to mortar shelling it but couldn’t hit it, the doctors moved to safe place now.
Update 11:17 PM clashes continues near regime checkpoints. Two people were injured, their injuries are not critical, they were hit by snipers. I learned that there is a safe refuge for women in this neighborhood, and the men here are telling me to head there before it gets too late.
I am having dinner now with citizen journalists and photojournalists, we’re eating tomato and mortadella. Come join us.