Software engineer and open-source advocate Bassel Khartabil will spend his second birthday in prison today. Palestinian-born Bassel was arrested on 15 March last year by Syrian security forces, and has been in prison ever since. On his birthday and the 799th day of Syria’s conflict, Index calls on the Syrian government to release Khartabil.
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 80,000 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 and we call on the Syrian authorities to release him.’
Earlier this year, Bassel was awarded an Index on Censorship Digital Freedom Award, sponsored by Google for his work as a free internet pioneer, advancing open source technologies.
We’ve asked friends of Bassel from around the world to share their birthday messages to him with us. Share your own messages with us too:
You have been away now for almost 14months, you have spent two birthdays away in a cell, you probably lost weight, got tortured, and I am sure you feel so miserable. I can only say to you, I will make sure and try my best not to let you spend another birthday away. Happy birthday please try to have a happy one, even if you have to fabricate one in your head, rest assured I am lighting you a candle thinking of you. I miss you my friend. #freebassel. - Dana Trometer, friend and member of Free Bassel campaign
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
Bassel, I don’t know how or even if this message will reach you. Your birthday is important and you, you are important. Many of your friends miss you – they miss your positive contributions to the world at large, we miss how you bridge far away lands with well known and seemingly easy places. We miss you. It seems impossible to imagine what you are doing in this moment or how one might work to improve anything at all. There is a phrase that I learned once when traveling through your world, الحب و الحياة في وقت قصير – what you bring to the world is important, you set an example for every human and we love you. - Jacob Appelbaum, Tor project
Dear Bassel, I wish you health and freedom and hope to meet you in Buenos Aires at the CC summit. - Mélanie Dulong de Rosnay, Creative Commons
Happy birthday Bassel – we miss you and continue to admire your courage and await your release! - Jillian C York, Director for International Freedom of Expression at Electronic Frontier Foundation
Sana helua ya gamil ya Bassel habibi. I miss you and miss the old days in Damascus, and the trips with the musketeers! We will do your next birthday party together to celebrate free Bassel and free Syria, Inshallah. – Donatella Della Ratta, Creative Commons
Happy birthday you stubborn kid. Wish more algorithms to unlock and a beautiful lady to unlock your heart. - Bassel’s uncle, Oussama Al Rifai
You and me are the very same age. And we both come from troubled countries, in “transition” they call it. And for you it is not only a country where you are in prison, it is a region. I hope leaders in your region will realize soon how important young, creative, bright minds like you will be for a peaceful future. That “shared, inclusive culture” you embrace. With solidarity, I will toast tonight for the future conversations we will have. - Renata Avila, Creative Commons Guatemala
Happy birthday from Cairo. Your courage inspires us. Hold on. We will all celebrate FREEDOM for the PEOPLE very soon. – Dr. Rasha Abdulla, Journalism and Mass Communication Professor
We love you Bassel, I wish can see you soon and health and visit HK asap, and we can talk together and see your images eveywhere!!! I’m thinking of you everyday with my action. And Happy Birthday!!!! Next time we can cut the birthday cake!!!! - Jenny Hui, artist
The Free Bassel campaign has also launched a creative project to shed more light on the activist’s case. Visit the Bassel Sunlight page, where the campaign is looking for your help to unearth more information about what’s happened with him.
Special thanks to Renata Avila and Dana Tromoter for collecting these birthday messages.
Don’t miss the spring issue of Index on Censorship magazine. Post Charlie Hebdo our commentators take a global view at how threats are being used to stop writers and artists, with Ariel Dorfman, David Edgar, Father Ted’s Arthur Mathews, Turkish novelist Elif Shafak and others. Also, major general Tim Cross and internet guru Martha Lane Fox go head to head on national security versus privacy, and Ismail Einashe on the perils of escaping from Eritrea.