Where is Bassel? On March 15 2012, Bassel Khartabil was arrested by the Syrian government in Damascus. Up until October 2015, we know he was being held at the Adra Prison in Damascus. His current whereabouts are unknown.
What did Bassel do? Bassel is an open source software developer, building platforms for the free sharing of information for the Syrian people. Things like Wikipedia, that we use to get information every day without even considering it being a political or (il)legal action. This was enough for the Syrian government to disappear him. Where is Bassel?
Pillars of the internet community, along with Bassel’s loved ones, have come forward to answer this question. WhereIsBassel demonstrations will be taking place all over the world with the aim of highlighting the #FREEBASSEL campaign, making us all ask #WhereIsBassel, and pushing the Syrian government to release the online community member, husband-to-be, son to a mother and father, and celebrated international software engineer, Bassel Khartabil, immediately.
The WhereIsBassel Berlin Event will take place this Saturday 19th March, 14:00Uhr at Weinbergsweg 9 (Rosenthaler Platz).
I spoke to Anas Marrawi, a personal friend of Bassel’s, to find out more about the man.
When did you first meet Bassel?
I met Bassel the first time at “Tweetup” in Damascus, where a group of people who became friends on Twitter decided to organise a small meetup in a cafe.
How would you describe your friendship with Bassel?
It was a true friendship where we shared the same interests about IT and open source, had fun, enjoyed our work together; he also was very helpful whenever I needed help or advice.
What’s your fondest memory of being with him?
Bassel established a “hacker space” in Damascus where he used to organise meetings and events on different topics such as Open Source, Creative Commons, operating systems, among others. My fondest memory of him is when he was working hard preparing for the event, from testing the projector, to organising the chairs and getting the camera ready for a livestream. I remember how determined he was trying to provide whatever he could to help others learn and enjoy their time.
When did you last see him? What was the occasion?
It was a couple of weeks before his detention. We met in a cafe in Damascus where he’d come to help me with a technical issue in a web project I was working on. I remember that he was busy that day, but he came to help me and answer my questions. It was a short meeting, and unfortunately the last one.
You guys left Syria for Europe. What made him stay?
Although he knew that he was in danger, he didn’t try to hide his activism and continued his efforts to show the world the true peaceful and beautiful face of the Syrian revolution. He unfortunately got arrested illegally by the secret police in a relatively early time after the start of the revolution.
What was Bassel doing that the government didn’t like?
All Bassel did was try to convey to the world what was actually happening in Syria, covering and sharing news about peaceful anti-regime protests all around the country. This kind of work was enough for the regime to get him and a lot of other people with similar activism imprisoned and even tortured to death.
If Bassel were here right now, what do you think he’d be working toward?
He would be doing exactly the same work, helping the world see what is actually going on in Syria.
What would he say about the public reaction after his disappearance?
He would be happy to see his friends doing the best they can to let the world know about his disappearance, but he would also remind the world that there are hundreds of thousands of disappeared people just like him, and they are not getting the exposure they deserve in the media.
If you could say something to him now, what would it be?
I would say to him: “Bassel, you are a real-life hero, you made us proud, stay strong as you have always been. Freedom is coming, and it hasn’t been closer.”
The WhereIsBassel Berlin Event
Saturday 19th March, 14:00Uhr
Weinbergsweg 9 (Rosenthaler Platz)