In Razan's words, The Regime does not fear the prisoners but rather those of you who don't forget them...
Since I wrote my first blog last March on the Syrian uprising, , Now it is Syrias Turn, where I commented that the demonstrations and Daraa and Latakia marked “the beginning of the end,” more than 4000 Syrian protestors have been killed. Sadly, Assad did not disappoint us and showed that he is no different than his father; like Hafiz al-Assad, Bashar al-Assad has used brutal force to try extinguish the uprising. However, I am as convinced as I was almost a year ago: his end is near, and is much closer than ever before.
During the early summer months when I was in Istanbul, I was able to meet quite a few Syrians running from the regime. They simply knew that if they remained they would be arrested immediately. I have to say that my heart went out to them; to be in exile, and to have to work from outside of the country when you tied your fate to its future is a burden that few could imagine. The longing to return home and be united with family, friends, and back to the society they have worked so hard to change is unbearable. However, the choice to leave cannot be difficult when the alternative is to live from within the walls of a prison, where torture is rampant.
One Syrian I was able to meet was Razan Ghazzawi, who opted to stay in Syria, while actively criticizing the Assad regime and blogging about those who dared to speak out. Razan was in Istanbul for the Pride Week, where she, along with Egyptian woman activist Kholoud Bidak, engaged a full room of listeners about the role of women and the LGBT community in the Arab uprisings. After the talk, I was able to exchange a few minutes with her and expressed my hope that one day they could speak in the US and share their experiences with students. Knowing the situation in Syria however I also wished her the best, keeping my worries to myself and admiring her courage to speak out while the whole time thinking of my new friends taking refuge in Turkey, unable to return.
Well last week she was arrested on her way to give a talk in Jordan. According to the Syrian Center for Media and Freedom of Expression, where she works as a media officer:
“Yesterday afternoon, on Sunday 4/12/2011, Syrian immigration police at Syrian/ Jordanian borders has arrested the activist and blogger Razan Ghazzawi on the Syrian-Jordanian borders, while she was heading to attend the Forum of Defenders and Media Freedom in the Arab World in Amman representative of the Syrian Center for Media and freedom of expression (SCM). Razan Ghazzawi works as a media officer at the Syrian Center for Media and Freedom of Expression (SCM). She graduated of the Department of English Literature at the Faculty of Arts of Damascus University and holds an MA in comparative literature from the University of Balamand, Lebanon”
Her friend, Julie York wrote the following in an article published in the Guardian (which I highly recommend you read):
“I got an urgent instant message from my good friend Razan Ghazzawi last Tuesday night. Having tweeted and blogged against the Syrian regime for the past several months under her real name, from inside Syria, Ghazzawi was concerned that she had become a target. Always prepared, she sent me her contingency plan: close her online accounts. Syrians who have been arrested and detained over the past nine months have reported having their passwords demanded by authorities. Though closing her accounts wouldn't help her, it could protect her friends – that's the kind of person Ghazzawi is”
In Istanbul, Lamdaistanbul has held a protest on her behalf in front of the Syrian consulate, and they along with all the other protests on her behalf, are getting the word out! Please share this post with others, together let us get the word out. And, in a loud voice let us say to the Syrian regime: Release Razan now! Free all political prisoners! Stop the killing! And, last but not least: Assad, allow the democratic forces in your country to take power. Your days are numbered so step down immediately!