Friday 16th December 2011
Syrian authorities have charged Razan Ghazzawi, a prominent US-born blogger, with trying to incite sectarian strife in the country. Razan was arrested on 4th December when crossing the border from Syria to Jordan where she planned to attend a conference about press freedom in the Arab world.
Facing 15 years in Prison
According to the Syrian Centre for Media and Free Expression, Razan could face 15 years in prison for “establishing an organisation that aims to change the social and economic status of the state” and weakening national sentiment.
Born in the US, Razan grew up in Jaddah, Saudi Arabia, before returning with her parents to her homeland of Syria at the age of ten. After reading English Literature at Damascus University, Razan pursued her studies for a further five years in Lebanon. She began blogging in 2009 on her Razaniyyat website and has earned her reputation as an empowered, passionate and outspoken feminist and a firm opponent of the Syrian government.
Due to Razan’s online prominence, her arrest and potential sentence has triggered a global social media response, in the form of a #FreeRazan campaign on Twitter, calling for her immediate release. There is a similar campaign to free Razan on Facebook and the Syrian Centre for Media and Free Expression has called for Razan’s immediate and unconditional release.
Praised by Famous Egyptian blogger Zeinobia as an “Arab leftist Nationalist,” Razan began blogging in 2009 using her own name, an unusual choice due to her anti-government sentiments. When the uprising against the Syrian government began earlier this year, Razan changed her name to create anonymity and a form of protection for herself and her views.
Razan then had a change of heart and decided to make her voice heard loud and clear: she reverted to blogging and tweeting her opposition to the Syrian government, once again under her own name.
Other bloggers detained
Other Syrian bloggers and activists have been detained since the start of the uprising in the country earlier this year, and Razan has been in solidarity with them all, campaigning for their freedom. When Razan believed she was going to be arrested, she shut down her online accounts so the passwords could not be seized by the Syrian authorities who she feared may threaten her friends.
Jadaliyya.com have posted that Palestinian bloggers and activists are also in solidarity with Razan and are supporting the campaign for her immediate freedom.
The Syrian Centre for Media and Free Expression said: “We demand the immediate and unconditional release of our colleague Razan Ghazzawi as well as an end to her trial and the annulment of the completely baseless charges against her.”
Image: Jillian C. York