Call for Applications: Bassel Khartabil Free Culture Fellowship

Honoring the legacy of Creative Commoner Bassel Khartabil: Advancing collaboration, community, and the open web
Photo by Joi Ito, CC BY 2.0


فتح باب تقديم الطلبات: زمالة باسل خرطبيل للثقافة الحرة

Creative Commons is now inviting applications for the Bassel Khartabil Free Culture Fellowship, a new opportunity to honor the legacy and impact of Palestinian Syrian Open internet activist Bassel Khartabil.

Information on how to apply can be found below.

This unique and life-changing fellowship is based on a one-year term, eligible for renewal, and includes a stipend of $50,000 USD as well as associated, supplemental funds to support other costs and overhead.

The fellowship supports outstanding individuals developing open culture in their communities under adverse circumstances. Organized by Creative Commons, Mozilla, the Wikimedia Foundation, the Jimmy Wales Foundation, #NEWPALMYRA, and others, the fellowship is part of a three-year commitment to promote the values important to Bassel’s work and life: open culture, radical sharing, free knowledge, remix, collaboration, courage, optimism, and humanity.

Fellows are expected to lead projects or initiatives that will catalyze free culture, particularly in societies vulnerable to attacks on freedom of expression and free access to knowledge. Special consideration will be given to applicants operating within closed societies and in developing economies where other forms of support are scarce. Applications from the Levant and wider MENA region are greatly encouraged.

Throughout their fellowship term, chosen fellows will receive a stipend, mentorship from affiliate organizations, skill development, project promotion, and fundraising support from the partner network. Fellows will be chosen by a selection committee composed of representatives of the partner organizations.

About Bassel Khartabil

Bassel Khartabil was a relentless advocate for free speech, free culture, and democracy. He was the cofounder of Syria’s first hackerspace, Aiki Lab, Creative Commons’ Syrian project lead, and a prolific open source contributor, from Firefox to Wikipedia. Bassel’s final project, relaunched as #NEWPALMYRA, entailed building free and open 3D models of the ancient Syrian city of Palmyra. In his work as a computer engineer, educator, artist, musician, cultural heritage researcher, and thought leader, Bassel modeled a more open world, impacting lives globally.

Bassel was taken from the streets in March of 2012 in a military arrest and interrogated and tortured in secret in a facility controlled by Syria’s General Intelligence Directorate. After a worldwide campaign by international human rights groups, together with Bassel’s many colleagues in the open internet and free culture communities, he was moved to Adra’s civilian prison, where he was able to communicate with his family and friends. His detention was ruled unlawful by the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, and condemned by international organizations such as Creative Commons, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, and the Jimmy Wales Foundation.

Despite the international outrage at his treatment and calls for his release, in October of 2015 he was moved to an undisclosed location and executed shortly thereafter — a fact that was kept secret by the Syrian regime for nearly two years.

Organizational Partners

Creative Commons, #FREEBASSEL, Wikimedia Foundation, GlobalVoices, Mozilla, Jimmy Wales Foundation, #NEWPALMYRA, Fabricatorz Foundation,  YallaStartup, and SMEX.

Related information:

Bassel Khartabil Free Culture Fellowship

Free Bassel

Bassel Khartabil

(Please note: Creative Commons announced the Bassel Khartabil Memorial Fund in tandem with the Bassel Khartabil Memorial Fellowship. Applicants seeking individual grants of up to $10,000 USD can find more information and eligibility information at the program page.)

Fellowship details

Fellowships are based on one-year terms, which are eligible for renewal.

Benefits are designed to allow for flexibility and stability both for Fellows and their families. The standard fellowship offers a stipend of $50,000 USD, paid in 10 monthly installments. Fellows are responsible for remitting all applicable taxes as required.

To help offset cost of living, the fellowship also provides supplements for childcare and health insurance, and may provide support for project funding on a case-by-case basis. The fellowship also covers the cost of required travel for fellowship activities.

Fellows will receive:

  • A stipend of $50,000 USD, paid in 10 monthly installments.
  • A one-time health insurance supplement for Fellows and their families, ranging from $2,000 for single Fellows to $4,000 for a couple with two or more children.
  • An allowance of up to $1,500 towards the purchase of laptop computer, digital cameras, recorders and computer software; fees for continuing studies or other courses, research fees or payments, to the extent such purchases and fees are related to the fellowship.
  • Coverage in full for all approved fellowship trips, including domestic and international travel.
Location of Fellowship

The fellowship is intended to allow participants to independently locate wherever they can deliver the most impact for their initiative. Fellows will have direct access to mentorship, resources and support from organizational partners, including travel to various partner offices or conferences.

Fellowship eligibility criteria (Who should apply)

The Bassel Khartabil Free Culture Fellowship is open to individuals and small teams worldwide, who:

  • Propose a viable new initiative to advance free culture values as outlined in the call for applicants above,
  • Demonstrate a history of activism in the Open Source, Open Access, Free Culture or Sharing communities, and
  • Are prepared to focus on the fellowship as their primary work.

Proposed projects should advance the free culture values of Bassel Khartabil through the use of art, technology, and culture. Successful projects will aim to:

  • Meaningfully increase free public access to human knowledge, art or culture,
  • Further the cause of social justice/social change, and
  • Strive to develop both a local and global community to support its cause.

We welcome applicants from a wide range of disciplines and practices, including but not limited to researchers and scholars, technologists, artists and musicians, community organizers, engineers, advocates and activists.

Special consideration will be given to applicants operating within closed societies and in developing economies where other forms of support are scarce.

  • Applications from the Levant and wider MENA region are greatly encouraged.

We don’t expect applicants to meet each and every one of these criteria. If you’re unsure, please apply! Tell us your story and describe how and why your project will build on the work and legacy of Bassel.

Requirements for Fellows
  • Fellows will be required to submit a report detailing the impact and outcomes of their projects at the conclusion of the fellowship.
  • Fellows must be willing to sign a grant agreement and to provide Creative Commons with any requested information relating to processing funds.
  • Fellows must be willing to be identified and promoted in conjunction with their projects by Creative Commons or their partner organizations..
  • Fellows must agree to publish all related works and output related to the funded project or initiative as free, openly licensed and/or open-source.
  • Fellows will be solely responsible for related tax collection or reporting for any received funds.
  • Fellows must be able to receive funds from Creative Commons. Creative Commons will not provide funds if OFAC or other laws or regulations restrict it from doing so.
What to submit

Applications can be submitted by either email OR via the form found below.
All applicants must submit the following materials to be considered for a grant:

  1. A vision statement, which should address the following:
    1. Your alignment with the eligibility requirements.
    2. Details regarding your proposed initiative or project, including anticipated impacts, goals, and outcomes.
    3. Your record of open community contribution and collaboration.
  2. Biography and curriculum vitae. Please also clearly state your current nation of residence and your nationality.
  3. A brief (one page or less) breakdown of your budgetary request, including planned expenses and resource requirements for the year of project development.
  4. You may also submit additional background materials to document your previous work and successes, including blog posts, video or audio, media coverage, or expressions of support.

Applicants whose projects are chosen to advance to the next stage in the evaluation process may be asked to provide additional information, including personal references.

Email applications should be sent to with “Bassel Khartabil Free Culture Fellowship application” in the subject line. Alternatively, the online application form starts below.

Creative Commons welcomes encrypted applications via email only. All information will be handled in accordance with the Creative Commons Privacy Policy. PGP Key: 0xB7246757CAD068FD06F5B4431ACC9B351A0F2C1E

The latest date for applications to be considered is March 24, 2018.

A committee consisting of Creative Commons representatives as well as organizational partners will review applications through March 2018.


Questions or comments? Please contact