Zeitouneh goes into hiding
But she eventually found that she could no longer work effectively in Damascus with Syria's secret police stalking her across the capital. In May 2011, her husband was arrested at their home and held for three months. As a result, she went into hiding for two years.
By April 2013, Zeitouneh had decided to flee for the rebel-held town of Douma on the outskirts of Damascus in the hope of continuing her work more freely. It would be her last known location.
The VDC would go on to investigate war crimes, such as the August 2013 chemical weapons attack on Eastern Ghouta, which Zeitouneh documented with her colleague Thaer H.
At least 1,000 people were killed in the attack, including more than 400 children, according to independent sources. "I witnessed the massacre myself," Zeitouneh wrote then. "I saw the bodies of men, women and children in the streets. I heard the mothers screaming when they found the bodies of their children among the dead."
A hostile reception
Her arrival in Douma was challenging. Zeitouneh and her colleagues quickly figured out that their presence in the area was not welcomed. It was largely because she had immediately started investigating abuses committed by armed rebel groups, including Islamist militants.
"We did not do a revolution and lose thousands of souls so that such monsters can come and repeat the same unjust history," Zeitouneh wrote Houry, who previously worked for Human Rights Watch, in an email dated May 2013. "These people need to be held to account just like the regime."
Throughout 2013, armed groups vied for power in Douma, including the likes of Islamic State, the Nusra Front and Jaish al-Islam. The latter would go on to assume vast control over the area by co-opting its competitors – or outright eliminating them.