“Jail is not walls, not the executioner and guards. It is the hidden fear in our hearts that makes us prisoners.”
Bassel Khartabil was born in Damascus on May 22, 1981 to Syrian-Palestinian parents. He was an open source software developer programmer that contributed to the introduction of Firefox and Wikipedia to the Arab world amongst other programs. His efforts were recognized by the European commission in 2013 for “opening up the internet in Syria and vastly extending online Knowledge to the Syrian people”, and was subsequently presented with the Censorship Digital Freedom Award for using technology to promote an open and free internet. Although his name was Khartabil, he used the name Bassel Safadi online, a reference to his Palestinian origins in the town of Safad.
Prior to this, he was the lead for Creative Commons in Syria, supporting artists, musicians and writers to display their work and be inspired by the creativity of others on platforms, and likewise with engineers and democracy campaigners in their finding a safe space of innovation.
Foreign Policy magazine named him one of its Top 100 Global Thinkers of 2012. Bassel realized early on the importance of sharing, and the power of an informed society. He recognized the internet for the level playing field it is. He successfully ensured the broadcasting of Creative Commons licensed videos of the 2009 Gaza War through al- Jazeera, ensuring atrocities otherwise unseen to be spread.
With the onset of the revolution, Bassel, a teacher by heart as described by friends, provided media activists with broadcasting and communication training, in essence, ensuring the revolution was televised. Mohammed Najem, an activist in Lebanon said, “He was on a mission inside Damascus to make sure that the voices of the people doing the uprising would be heard…. a phone with a camera is a hundred times more powerful than a gun.”
Bassel was imprisoned on March 15, 2012 by security services and executed after three years of solitary confinement and torture. His wife, Noura Ghazi Safadi, a lawyer and human right activist who Bassel had initially met in a demonstration in the early days of the revolution describes the event,
“He was executed just days after he was taken from Adra prison in October 2015. This is the end that suits a hero like him…..This is a loss for Syria. This is a loss for Palestine. This is my loss.”
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