Syrian Creative Commons lead Bassel Khartabil disappeared in 2012, snatched off the Damascus streets by Syrian authorities; in 2015, he was secretly executed by the Assad regime, a fact that has only just come to light.
Bassel was an ardent and effective free culture activist; a contributor to the Mozilla project, the founder of Syria's first hackerspace, and a regional leader in dialogs about copyright, fair use and free expression in the Arab-speaking world.
Bassel was an important source of information about internet censorship and control during the early stages of the Syrian uprising. His independent, factual reporting, combined with his global profile among online activists, made him a danger to the totalitarian Assad regime.
Here's a letter Bassel wrote after his imprisonment to the Electronic Frontier Foundation's Danny O'Brien, received in 2015:
"Of my experience spending three years in jail so far for writing open source code (mainly), I can tell you how much authoritarian regimes feel the dangers of technology on their continuity. And they should be afraid of that, as code is much more than tools. It's an education that opens youthful minds, and moves nations forward. Who can stop that? No-one... I'm in jail, but still have thousands if not millions of my hands and minds outside writing code and hacking and they will always keep doing that, no matter what stupid actions these regimes take to stop the motion.
As long as you people out there are doing what you are doing, my soul is free. Jail is only a temporary physical limitation."
Bassel Khartabil, In Memoriam
(Image: Joi Ito, CC-BY)
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