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June 20th, 2014
12:10 PM ET

Clinton calls for release of Syrian activist

By CNN's Susan Garraty

Former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton is demanding the release of kidnapped Syrian lawyer and human rights activist Razan Zaitouneh. Zaitouneh, her husband and two other human rights activists were abducted from offices in Douma, Syria in December, 2013. No group is taking responsibility for the kidnapping. The day before her disappearance, Zaitouneh published a highly critical assesment of the now infamous ISIS militants

“We will not forget her. We will not forget the work she did, we will not forget the abuses she exposed, or the hope she cherished, the hope for a more peaceful and eventually democratic Syria,” Clinton said while giving the Vital Voices Global Trailblazer Award to Rana Zaitouneh, who accepted the recognition on behalf of her sister at a ceremony at the Kennedy Center in Washington.

Clinton noted that Razan had been ripped from her work and her family, and that “her vital voice is silent now even as her country continues to burn.”

Since 2003, Razan Zaitouneh passionately documented human rights abuses in Syria; with the spawning of an armed uprisings in in 2011, Zaitouneh made no distinction between accounting for atrocities committed by the regime of Bashar al-Assad and the increasingly well-armed opposition. Her life was threatened several times before her disappearance.

Rana Zaitouneh didn’t think she would be meeting Hillary Clinton or lobbying in Washington, DC for the release of her sister. A mother of four, she left Syria for a safer life in a suburb outside of Ottawa, Canada. Rana is making a plaintive call for the return of her little sister.

Asked in an interview with CNN if she believes her sister is still alive, Rana says, “I’m not allowing myself to believe anything else, sometime I have my doubts, but I believe she will be strong enough to stand this.”

Months after her kidnapping, in March of 2014 the World Economic Forum in Davos selected the 37 year-old Razan Zaitouneh as one of its young global leaders. The award was given to her in absentia.

The day before the kidnapping, Rana spoke to her sister. “She had a rash from the polluted water and poor conditions, but she wasn’t crying or complaining- she told me that it would all be over soon and that we will be fine and free.”

“She never asked for anything for herself- we just want her back,” says Rana.

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