For the fourth consecutive year, Creative Commons communities in the Arab world have self-organized and hosted CC Iftars to celebrate the Muslim holy month of Ramadan in the spirit of sharing.
Back in 2010, CC Iftars were created as community-organized gatherings where CC members and people interested in the sharing culture would meet up to celebrate together the breaking of the fast, and share food and creative ideas. During the past four years, CC communities in Egypt, Jordan, the UAE, Syria, Morocco, Iraq, Lebanon, Qatar, and Tunisia have actively contributed to the iftar project by hosting community events, screening movies, featuring talks, charity marathons, and remixing competitions.
This Ramadan 2013, CC Iftars where organized in Qatar, Iraq, Lebanon, and Jordan. CC Iftar Doha kicked off in the Qatari capital on 23 July in a magnificent Ramadan tent at the St. Regis hotel. A very diverse community made up of technologists, graphic designers, entrepreneurs and photographers, who all share an interest in growing digital Arabic content, attended the gathering and donated the proceeds of the evening to the orphans in Qatar.
Despite the deteriorating security situation, the CC community in Iraq was able to celebrate CC Iftars for the second year. This time, the event was not only hosted in the capital Baghdad, but also in Kirkuk, Dhi Qar, Sulaymaniyah, and al-Diwaniyyah. The lively and brave group behind the Iraqi Network for Social Media – who are very active in organizing open-culture–related activities – has managed to put together around a hundred people in these five cities all across the country, and celebrate the spirit of sharing by screening movies and hosting a brainstorming session about new ideas and projects as well as a ceremony to remember Iraqi orphans. The events were simultaneously held on 27 July and they were attended by people with a wide range of professional backgrounds, spanning from bloggers and journalists to photographers and artists.
On 31 July, it was Lebanon’s turn to host its CC Iftar for the second time. The event was held in the brand new multi-purpose space of Alt City in Hamra district, Beirut. The community gathered to celebrate the accomplishments of CC Lebanon – which has been a formal affiliate since 2010 – and discuss new ideas to improve the culture of sharing in the country through artistic and creative projects.
Last but not least, CC Jordan, one of the oldest CC affiliates in the Arab region, celebrated on 6 August its second CC Iftar in Amman. The gathering was hosted in the beautiful location of Fann wa Chai in the historical district of Jabal Lweibdeh. Jordan Open Source Association, who has been an active promoter of CC and the sharing culture, was behind the organization of the CC Iftar which gathered open-source lovers, geeks, bloggers, and digital activists.
As in previous years, CC Iftars have proven to be a great opportunity to host community-driven discussions and feature new ideas and projects. They have also showed the enthusiasm and self-organization skills of CC Arab communities, even in such difficult times of political and social unrest.
This year, too, our thoughts go to Bassel Khartabil aka Bassel Safadi, CC Syria public lead, who has been detained without trial by Syrian authorities since 15 March 2012. Bassel was behind the idea of launching CC Iftars in the Arab world and he is greatly missed by his family, friends, and the entire CC community.
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If you subscribe to Creative Commons’ newsletter or follow us on Twitter and Facebook, you’re likely familiar with the story of Bassel Khartabil, our friend and longtime CC volunteer who’s been in prison in Syria since March 2012. Today, on the second birthday that Bassel has spent in prison, friends of Bassel and members of the open community are taking a moment to reflect on his situation and call for his release.
The Index on Censorship, which honored Bassel in March with the Digital Freedom Award, has compiled a collection of birthday wishes for Bassel:
I just want him free, I pray for him to be free and I pray for all his friends who believe and work on Bassel’s freedom. – Bassel’s mother
It is your birthday. It is not a day of happiness — yet. But when justice is done, and you are released from your wrongful imprisonment, all of us will celebrate with enormous happiness both this day, and every day that you have given us as an inspiration for hope across the world. – Larry Lessig, founder of Creative Commons
Our friend Jon Phillips, organizer of the #freebassel campaign, has launched a project called FREEBASSEL SUNLIGHT. In Jon’s words, “Please help shine some sunlight on Bassel by doing some novel research on his situation, where he is located, and help connect the dots of his situation and life.”
Artist and filmmaker Niki Korth recently developed a game that uses quotations from Bassel to start conversations about free and open communication, the conflict in Syria, and other topics. Niki has been publishing the playing cards online as well as videos of people playing the game.
Earlier this week, Niki led a few of us at CC in the game. You can watch our responses to several of her questions on her Vimeo page.
In this video, CC CEO Cathy Casserly voices our shared hope that we’ll see Bassel soon:
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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.Comments Off on Imprisoned internet pioneer Bassel Khartabil wins Index on Censorship Digital Freedom Award
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.
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 freebassel.org.Comments Off on Bassel Khartabil Nominated for Digital Freedom Award
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 freebasselday.org.7 Comments »
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 freebassel.org.
- Call for the Release of Bassel Khartabil
- Please help us Free Bassel, open source developer and CC volunteer
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.2 Comments »
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. — freebassel.org
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.