freebassel

Join us in San Francisco for Free Bassel Day

Elliot Harmon, March 7th, 2014

Bassel Khartabil is a Syrian-Palestinian computer engineer who, through his innovations in social media, digital education, and open-source web software, played a huge role in opening the internet in Syria and bringing online access and knowledge to the Syrian people. Many people reading this blog know Bassel through his work as lead for CC Syria. He was arrested in March of 2012 in Damascus, and has been detained ever since.

The second #FreeBassel Day will be held globally on March 15, marking the second anniversary of his imprisonment and the third anniversary of the beginning of the Syrian uprising.

If you are in the San Francisco Bay Area, come join the SF open community on #FreeBassel Day SF at the Wikimedia Foundation offices in downtown San Francisco. In addition to sharing art, music, food, and stories about Bassel, we will be hosting a Wikipedia Edit-a-thon in honor of him. Bassel is a Wikipedian himself, so we’ll be working on writing and improving articles on topics that he cares about (and might be editing now if he weren’t in prison). Such topics include: Syria, computers, technology in the MENA region, open source web development, and peace (to name a few). Learn more about Bassel in his own words and the words of friends here and here.

No Wikipedia editing experience is necessary – just bring your laptop, and seasoned Wikipedians will be there to provide guidance in copy-editing, article creation, and sourcing. And friends and colleagues of Bassel will be there to tell you more about him and his work.

We’ll have an informal potluck, including food and beverages sourced from the #FreeBassel Cookbook V.1, a collection of recipes from friends and supporters of Bassel, collected by The Big Conversation Space and sponsored by Aerbook. Please bring something to share.

We’ll also be sharing art and media created by #FreeBassel supporters, including Disquiet Junto #FreeBassel and Letters for Bassel.

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Cookbook in honor of Bassel Khartabil

Elliot Harmon, February 24th, 2014

In honor of Bassel Khartabil and Free Bassel Day, artist Niki Korth is putting together a #freebassel cookbook. Bassel, a free software activist and leader of the Syrian Creative Commons community, has been in prison since 2012. In Niki’s words:

The #FreeBassel Cookbook is a collection of recipes from people who care about Bassel and would like to share a meal with him if he weren’t in prison.

Please contribute a recipe to this collection. Submit it before 10 March 2014 to get it included in the first edition of the cookbook. Pick a recipe that is special to you, a recipe that makes you think of Bassel, a recipe that reminds you that the virtual/digital world is only a tool for real world human encounters, and is in no way a substitute for experiences such as sharing a meal, or a recipe for a meal that you think Bassel would enjoy.

The #FreeBassel Cookbook V.1 will be released as a free, digital book on #FreeBassel Day 2014 (15 March)

If Bassel has not been freed by this date, please make a recipe from this collection on this day in his honor and share it with people who you care about. Share pictures of your meal with the #FreeBassel hashtag.

Repeat until Bassel is free.

Submit your recipe here. See our previous post to learn how to get involved with Free Bassel Day.

Previously: Disquiet Junto honors Bassel Khartabil

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Free Bassel Day, coming March 15

Elliot Harmon, January 22nd, 2014

Bassel Khartabil is a computer engineer who, through his innovations in social media, digital education, and open-source web software, played a huge role in opening the internet in Syria and bringing online access and knowledge to the Syrian people. Many people reading this blog know Bassel through his work as lead for CC Syria.

Coinciding with the 4th Arab Bloggers Meeting (at which Bassel was sorely missed) and the Geneva II Peace Conference, the #freebassel Campaign is announcing the call for pledges for Free Bassel Day 2014.

The second Free Bassel Day will be held globally on March 15, marking the second anniversary of his imprisonment and the third anniversary of the beginning of the Syrian civil war. We encourage you to join the CC and #freebassel communities and get involved.

For more information or to share your pledge for Free Bassel Day, contact the #freebassel campaign at love@freebassel.org.

Projects already in the works:

For more information or to submit your Free Bassel Day event or project, visit freebasselday.org.

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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 SoundCloud.com 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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Arab CC community hosts Iftars, celebrates sharing

Donatella Della Ratta, October 2nd, 2013

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.

Related:

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Bassel Khartabil’s Second Birthday in Prison

Elliot Harmon, May 22nd, 2013

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

Read more

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:

Read more

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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 freebassel.org.

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Free Bassel, Free Culture

Elliot Harmon, March 15th, 2013

#FREEBASSEL
#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 freebasselday.org.

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