bassel safadi

Disquiet Junto honors Bassel Khartabil

Elliot Harmon, January 22nd, 2014

We’re big fans of Disquiet Junto, a group of Creative Commons musicians who create original works and remixes each week around a different theme.

This week, Disquiet Junto is honoring Bassel Khartabil, the Syrian CC community leader who’s been in prison in Syria since March 2012, with a music project dedicated to Bassel.

From Disquiet Junto:

On Thursday, January 23, a special collaborative sound and music project will help raise awareness about Palestinian Syrian programmer and Creative Commons advocate Bassel Khartabil, who has been detained in Syria since March 15, 2012. As the two-year anniversary of Bassel’s incarceration approaches, the Disquiet Junto music community on will spend four days developing original sound works in Bassel’s honor. This week’s project will invite musicians to flesh out a work-in-progress that Bassel has, naturally, not been able to complete due to his imprisonment.

Late in the day each Thursday, a new compositional prompt goes out to members of the Disquiet Junto, who then have until 11:59pm the following Monday to submit a piece of music. The Bassel project will be the 108th weekly Disquiet Junto project. As of this date, over 3,000 original pieces of music have been uploaded to the Disquiet Junto group on SoundCloud by over 400 musicians from around the world. The Disquiet Junto began the first week of January 2012, and has continued weekly ever since. Past Disquiet Junto projects include the interpretation of polling data as a graphically notated score, the use of wind chimes as a percussive instrument, the creation of “goodbye music” for the Voyager 1 space probe made from the sounds of interstellar space, and numerous Creative Commons–inspired remixes of music originally published on netlabels.

The Disquiet Junto was created and is moderated by Marc Weidenbaum, the San Francisco–based author of the book Selected Ambient Works Volume II, based on the Aphex Twin album of that name. Subscribe to the Disquiet Junto email announcement list.

Update (January 24): The challenge has now launched. Submit your project by Monday!


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Letters for Bassel

Elliot Harmon, January 15th, 2014

We’ve written several times on this blog about Bassel Khartabil, the Syrian Creative Commons community leader who’s been imprisoned since March 2012 without having had any charges brought against him.

European Parliament members Charles Tannock and Ana Gomes recently submitted an official question to the Parliament leadership concerning Bassel’s imprisonment:

  1. Is the VP/HR aware of the ongoing imprisonment of Bassel Safadi Khartabil? If so, has she issued any public statement on the matter?
  2. Does she agree that this represents a further abuse by the Assad regime in its attempts to block the free spread of information?
  3. Will the VP/HR use the leverage available to her to press for his release, insisting upon his status as a non-combatant whose only crime has been to oppose censorship and promote the freedom of information?

Our friend Niki Korth recently created Letters for Bassel, a blog that collects letters to Bassel from friends or people who’ve been inspired by his story. She recently published this heartbreaking letter that Bassel wrote to his wife Noura on their first anniversary:

As Cathy wrote in her piece on Bassel for Huffington Post, “For Bassel and others around the world who fight for open, a free internet is not a theoretical matter. Real lives hang in the balance.” Creative Commons’ wish for 2014 is for Bassel to be freed and rejoin our community.

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Imprisoned internet pioneer Bassel Khartabil wins Index on Censorship Digital Freedom Award

Elliot Harmon, March 21st, 2013

Download press release (36 KB PDF)

Palestinian-born Syrian software engineer Bassel Khartabil is the winner of this year’s Index on Censorship Digital Freedom Award, sponsored by Google. Khartabil is a free internet pioneer who has spent his career advancing open source technologies. On March 15, 2012, he was illegally imprisoned in Syria. His family were given no official information about why or where he was detained but have since learnt that he is being held at the security branch of Kafer Sousa, Damascus.

Index CEO Kirsty Hughes said, “Following courageous and peaceful protests in 2011, Syria descended into violence with appalling attacks on civilians across the country — and with over 60,000 people killed over the last two years. Up until his arrest last March, Bassel Khartabil bravely continued to work for a cause he passionately believes in — an open and free internet that is available to all. In a country torn apart by violence, he is a brave advocate for peaceful change.”

Bassel’s friend Dana Trometer, who is collecting the Index award on his behalf said, “Bassel deserves to be out of jail celebrating his real freedom and digital freedom. On this Mother’s day in most of the Arab World, and as a mother myself, my heart goes out to Bassel’s Mom. Bassel is a kind and gentle friend. A loving husband and son. He did not fear being targeted as he knew his love for Syria would save him from being persecuted by the authorities. Bassel is aware of this award and he would like to thank the judges and audience for trusting him with such an honour. He would also like to pay respect to all the victims of the struggle for freedom of speech, and, especially for those non-violent youths who refused to carry arms and deserve all the credit for this award.”

Another close friend of Bassel’s, Jon Phillips, stated, “Lock-up, Lock-out fails. Locking-up Bassel, only locks-out his personal freedom. By locking-up Bassel, his Syrian captors are accidentally locking-out themselves from the future. From launching Creative Commons Syria, building the Arabic Wikipedia and bringing internet leaders to Syria, he knew that his free participation in global web communities required concrete contributions locally. For these acts would make Syria a better place. One year later, Bassel is under harsh lock-down. Now, thousands of people that Bassel’s work helped, now help him by spreading the message #FREEBASSEL. This is what truly builds Syria and connects it to the global connected future. This award proves that his lock-up, is NOT a lock-out of his digital freedom.”

Bassel is known worldwide for his strong commitment to the open web, teaching others about technology, and contributing his experience freely to help the world. Bassel is the inventor of an open source software that powers the Open Clip Art Library. He is an original contributor to the Arabic Wikipedia and launched Creative Commons Syria. He is well known in online technical communities as a dedicated volunteer to major Internet projects like Creative Commons, Mozilla Firefox, Wikipedia, Open Clip Art Library, and Fabricatorz.

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Bassel Khartabil Nominated for Digital Freedom Award

Elliot Harmon, March 19th, 2013

#freebasselday San Francisco
#FREEBASSELDAY San Francisco / Niki Korth / CC BY

If you read Creative Commons’ blog or follow our various social media channels, you’re no doubt already familiar with the story of Bassel Khartabil, the long-time Creative Commons volunteer who’s been detained in Syria for over a year. Last Friday, we participated in a global day of solidarity in honor of Bassel.

Bassel has been nominated for the Index on Censorship’s Digital Freedom Award. The award ceremony will take place this Thursday, March 21, in London.

From the Index’s nomination:

Software engineer Bassel Khartabil has been held in detention since his arrest in Damascus on 15 March 2012. The Gulf Centre for Human Rights believes his arrest is related to his work as a computer engineer, specialising in the development of open source software.

Khartabil, a Palestinian-born Syrian, spent his career advancing open source and related technologies to ensure a freer internet. Internationally, he is known for his voluntary work with open source projects such as Creative Commons and Mozilla Firefox. In 2012, Foreign Policy magazine named him in its list of the top 100 global thinkers.

As yet, authorities have failed to provide an official statement about his arrest, the charges he is facing or his whereabouts. Just weeks before he was jailed, Khartabil tweeted: “The people who are in real danger never leave their countries. They are in danger for a reason and for that they don’t leave.” Khartabil’s arrest was part of the Syrian government’s crackdown against the popular uprising, which has resulted in at least 60,000 deaths since March 2011.

For more information, visit

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Free Bassel, Free Culture

Elliot Harmon, March 15th, 2013

#FREEBASSEL / Kennisland / CC BY-SA

Creative Commons CEO Catherine Casserly wrote a blog post for the Huffington Post for the one-year anniversary of Bassel Khartabil’s arrest.

Since March 15, 2012, our colleague and friend Bassel Khartabil has been in prison in Syria, held without charges and not allowed legal representation. Bassel is an open-source coder and leader of the Syrian Creative Commons program. He believes in the open Internet, and has spent the last ten years using open technologies to improve the lives of Syrians. Not only did Bassel build the CC program in his country; he worked tirelessly to build knowledge of digital literacy, educating people about online media and open-source tools.

Our work requires us to spend a lot of time looking at nuanced details — whether a certain piece of legislation supports open access to research, for example, or how to mark creative works for easier search and filtering. Bassel’s imprisonment has been a stark reminder that our work is part of a larger, global ecosystem. For Bassel and others around the world who fight for open, a free internet is not a theoretical matter. Real lives hang in the balance.

Today, there are demonstrations and getherings happening all over the world in honor of Bassel. Learn more at


Lawrence Lessig’s WSJ Article on Bassel Khartabil

Elliot Harmon, January 8th, 2013

Bassel / joi / CC BY

Today in the Wall Street Journal, Creative Commons co-founder Lawrence Lessig has a thoughtful piece about Bassel Khartabil, the longtime CC volunteer who has been detained by Syrian authorities since March.

In late 2012, Foreign Policy named Mr. Khartabil one of this year’s top 100 thinkers. The magazine singled him out for “fostering an open-source community in a country long on the margins of the Internet’s youth culture.”

But Mr. Khartabil wasn’t able to accept that honor. He was arrested in March by Syrian authorities because of his work and has been held — at times in utter isolation — ever since. His family fears the very worst.

Mr. Khartabil isn’t a partisan, aligned with one Syrian faction against another. He represents a future, aligned against a totalitarian past. The Syrian government is fearful of the potential threat to the totalizing control that defines the modern Syrian state. The government thus wants to shut the free-software, free-culture movement down, in a way that only a totalitarian regime can.

Please join us in urging Syrian authorities to release Bassel. Sign the letter of support and follow the most recent updates at



Call for the Release of Bassel Khartabil

Cathy Casserly, October 29th, 2012

What open means to you
Bassel / joi / CC BY

Earlier this year, Creative Commons issued a statement in support of Bassel Khartabil, a longtime CC volunteer who has been detained by Syrian authorities since March 15. Amnesty International recently released a document with information suggesting that Bassel has been ill-treated and even tortured. This morning, we sent a letter to President Bashar al-Assad, Minister of Foreign Affairs Walid al-Mu’allim, and Minister of Defense ‘Imad al-Fraij; urging that Bassel be released unless he is promptly charged with an internationally recognized criminal offense. We urge Syrian authorities to grant Bassel immediate access to his family, a lawyer of his choice, and all necessary medical treatment.

Bassel has played a crucial role in the open technology and culture communities, both in Syria and around the world. Through his service as Creative Commons’ project lead in Syria and his numerous contributions to the advancement of open source and related technologies, Bassel has spent his career working toward a more free Internet. Many of us at Creative Commons have become friends of Bassel’s over the years. All of us have benefited from his leadership and expertise.

Please stand with us in support of Bassel. Amnesty International has provided instructions for contacting Syrian authorities. For more information, visit

Read Creative Commons’ call for the release of Bassel Khartabil (PDF).


Please help us Free Bassel, open source developer and CC volunteer

Joi Ito, June 29th, 2012

What open means to you
Bassel / joi / CC BY

On March 15, 2012, Bassel Khartabil was detained in a wave of arrests in the Mazzeh district of Damascus. Since then, his family has received no official explanation for his detention or information regarding his whereabouts. However, his family has recently learned from previous detainees at the security branch of Kafer Sousa, Damascus, that Bassel is being held at this location.

Bassel Khartabil, a Palestinian-born Syrian, 31, is a respected computer engineer specializing in open source software development, the type of contributions the Internet is built upon. He launched his career ten years ago in Syria, working as a technical director for a number of local companies on cultural projects like restoring Palmyra and Forward Syria Magazine.

Since his arrest, Bassel’s valuable volunteer work, both in Syria and around the world, has been stopped. His absence has been painful for the communities that depend on him. In addition, his family, and his fiancée whom he was due to marry this past April, have had their lives put on hold.

Bassel Khartabil has been unjustly detained for nearly four months without trial or any legal charges being brought against him. —

This is our statement of Support to Bassel, his family and friends.

Creative Commons supports efforts to obtain the release of Bassel Safadi, a valuable contributor to and leader in the technology community. Bassel’s expertise and focus across all aspects of his work has been in support of the development of publicly available, free, open source computer software code and technology. He pursues this not only through his valuable volunteer efforts in support of Creative Commons, but in all of his work in the technology field. Through his efforts, the quality and availability of freely available and open technology is improved and technology is advanced.

Please help us #FREEBASSEL by signing the support letter at


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