Global Leadership Awards
Razan Zaitouneh became a lawyer to defend the ideals she valued most — justice, freedom and truth. She began representing political prisoners, and soon became an activist. At 27, she created Syria’s first human rights information bank, where she documented violations and made information available to the world outside.
When violent suppression followed pro-democracy demonstrations in March 2011, she was determined to stay in Syria and record the truth.
Razan was a moderate voice; she never joined a political party. She advocated for democratic reform and non-violent civil resistance. She relied on facts and believed that citizenship comes with responsibility.
In describing the uprisings, Razan said that thousands of people took to streets everywhere “to protest peacefully, to champion freedom peacefully, to say that they want to believe in freedom and dignity.”
As violence intensified, Razan persisted. She recorded the abduction, arrest, torture and murder of peaceful protestors. One month into the war, she co-founded a broad coalition of fellow human rights advocates to exchange information and broadcast eyewitness accounts; they set up a newsroom on Skype and posted videos to YouTube. The coalition, known as Local Coordination Committees, had a presence online and offline: they organized demonstrations, and used cell phones and cameras to document events in real time.
The work was done in secret. Along with many fellow activists, Razan went into hiding, moving fr