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Opensource contributor Bassel Khartabil detained in Syria. Needs help
184 points by BjornW on July 3, 2012 | hide | past | favorite | 23 comments
Bassel Bassel Khartabil - an open source software contributor to projects such as Creative Commons & Mozilla has been unjustly detained for nearly four months without trial or any legal charges being brought against him.

Read more & sign the support letter: http://freebassel.org/

ps: Help get this on the frontpage of HackerNews

I don't know Bassel but the fact that he's been detained secretly in Syria suggests that the government thinks he's involved somehow with he uprising/democracy movement.

I don't think signature campaigns will do any good since not even pressure from the US and Turkey has slowed down the bloodshed so do we really think they will care about a bunch of virtual signatures collected online?

There's a few more viable options that should be considered:

1) Leverage someone who has influence with the Syrian government to take up the cause. Given Bassel has been an open source contributor, maybe look at which tech companies are still contracted by the Syrian government and try to get them to lend a voice of support. Make sure to play up the positive PR that releasing Bassel will have on improving Syria's image.

2) Stop collecting signatures and start collecting money to work the back channels. Let's be honest here, corruption is rife (high corruption index on Transparency International study) and the situation pretty chaotic, if you really want to free Bassel, consider a pragmatic approach.

Or do what Amnesty International does, and send polite but urgent letters of concern to persons of authority and influence including ambassadors (UN, US etc) and to Basher Assad himself. People are likely to be better treated if the authorities know that they are the focus of international attention (conversely it totally sucks for the thousands of anonymous people being tortured today in Syrian jails).

Or cut the middle man and go directly to Amnesty. They might consider him for their letter campaign (they already have the lists of recipients and have been known to send so many letters that they can cover a jail cell).

Just a suggestion - why do you not work with Avaaz.org A lot of people (like me) would be a little worried at sharing name and email addresses to an unknown site(no offence).

In fact, it would have been better if you had linked to https://creativecommons.org/weblog/entry/33119 which vouches for http://freebassel.org/

Creative Commons supports efforts to obtain the release of Bassel Safadi, a valuable contributor to and leader in the technology community. Bassel’s expertise and focus across all aspects of his work has been in support of the development of publicly available, free, open source computer software code and technology. He pursues this not only through his valuable volunteer efforts in support of Creative Commons, but in all of his work in the technology field. Through his efforts, the quality and availability of freely available and open technology is improved and technology is advanced.

Does Avaaz have any success stories? By success I mean freeing a dissident or sth. All their 'successes' I read of is 'raised appeal', 'collected xxxxxx signatures', blah blah, even the ones that actually resulted in some action are a bit controversial when it comes to counting their role in the whole process (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Avaaz) and look more like correlation than causation. They even credit themselves for Libya, ridiculous. I subscribed some time ago to their newsletter, the ammount of campaigns 'sign here, click there' made me impossible to believe they actually do anything besides being loud. Clicktivism.

Possibly (however, there's a lot of partially verified activism in Syria quoted here https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Avaaz#2012). However, some aspects of them evokes a bit of trust: https://secure.avaaz.org/en/avaaz_expenses_and_financial_inf...

The question is - how is having a custom website any different ? From an end user (me) point of view, I trust Avaaz as a platform to reasonably not mess with my data.

It isn't any different. It's still a few thousand first-world armchair warriors thinking their click matters. I'm sorry for this guy no less and no more than any other Syrian, but I can't believe anybody who knows who Assad is is fool enough to think they will touch his emotions with an email. It's not a damn breast cancer avatar ribbon, stop acta or save the whales, he got arrested by a regime making massacres on it's own citizens. I'm sorry to burst somebody's bubble of trust in the power of internet, but sadly guys like him will be very lucky to get out in one piece, and even if he does, there's very little to celebrate as thousands like him are there, without a hacker community support. Still good that you are worried about your email, let's choose a good platform, follow me on twitter and change the world with a click so we can sleep well.

You are correct that just clicking links and tweeting about issues such as the detainment of Bassel might not be very useful, regardless on which website this happens. I've felt like this many times before. Yet doing nothing will most definitely have no effect positive whatsoever. Therefor we try to do something, maybe it is utterly futile and maybe not, but at least we've tried to help a fellow human being getting out of a dire situation.

Personally I hope getting signatures will send a signal to other entities (perhaps more powerful) that helping out with this cause might be beneficial for them. Just because so many people, strangers and friends a like care. Signatures might be useful to fuel other channels like calbear81 is suggesting.

The worst thing in my opinion would be just forgetting people like Bassel and many others in countries with oppressive regimes.

Slacktivism is in fashion because it's just too easy, and it encourages even more of this behavior. One campaign justifies another one, although none of them accomplished anything significant. People justify it like you did, and they feel they are doing something. Are they? Better be honest with ourselves that we can't do crap, but it's a hard truth to endure.

Let's assume for a moment that one campaign to free someone in such situation would be successful. One person. From hundreds/thousands in one country. Probably tens of thousands throughout all oppresive countries. What would be the result? I'll tell you: the interwebs would proclaim it's own great success, that's a small leap but a giant step, blah blah. And happily in their chairs keep clicking, feeling like a hero while per every petition there is a thousand people keep being locked up and tortured and/or killed... Instead of exploring new ideas to act and engaging in more 'on the ground' action to help opressed people (probably the least but something practical you can do from home is keeping Tor running[1]), the web keeps signing up petitions. Taking part in such slacker campaigns is IMO a lose-lose situation, sorry.

[1] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GwMr8Xl7JMQ&feature=relm...

btw Tor worked with Avaaz on collecting donations for communication devices, yet: 1) it was a Tor initiative. 2) https://secure.avaaz.org/en/egypt_blackout/ "$25,197 raised so far. Help us get to $100,000". From the frontpage "14,921,795 members worldwide" with a minimum ammount of $15 it gives only about 1700 members who wanted to pay anything (and I can only guess that this number is much lower and there were bigger donations from single entities).

Thanks for sharing your opinion, I've been saying the same things as you've said, except it won't help one bit.

Personally I've decided it's better to strive towards helping out with both new methods like your suggested Tor nodes and 'old methods' like petitions, than doing nothing at all. Only the latter will definitely preserve a status-quo and change nothing. Not for 1 person nor a thousand.

Slacktivism is a business. I personally regret that one particular good engineer was put to jail. But again, it is the war going down there. And it is not Syria, but the US, Israel and Saudi Arabia are responsible for this disorder n bloodshed. Believe me, if you see the war is near, grab your G.O.O.D. bags, family and run if only you are not on duty of protection of your country. This guy could be detained for whatever reason, its a war. Stop the war, he'll come free if he is still alive.

Please sign the letter and help the cause. We have more news to release as well in the coming days!

I wish him freedom, and I wish his good friends courage in this fight. Best of luck.

There is war down there in Syria. When all covert ops yankees and poms will go home, the war will stop. And people of Bassel sort will be free again. Right now I only see this campaign as promotion of anti-Assad moods in digital communities. Dirty game. You better campaign for 'Yankee go home from Syria', before starting anything like that. See this one 4 hrs ago - http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2012/jul/03/military...

you are speaking about "legal charge" and about a country like Syria at the same time ... How naive are you?

Very naive, but he is our best friend, so what would you do for your best friend?

unjustly how?

No trial, even though the constitution says must have a trial within 60 days. He has been held for four months. There is no announcements or lawyers allowed access to him, so there is no information about why he is there whatsoever, and no journalists allowed in the country so there is very very little information about his state.

This is how..

>>detained for nearly four months without trial or any legal charges being brought against him.

How can you hold somebody under detention without charges on him? This is like saying, he is innocent so far but yet needs to remain in Jail.

Picking up some one throwing them in Jail, without saying for what mistake of theirs. And hoping them to stay like that indefinitely is just pure oppression.

Please refrain yourself from making comments that can be read as plain trolling. Feel free to ask questions or comment with arguments instead of these oneliners.

"ps: Help get this on the frontpage of HackerNews"

Actually, I think you bear the burden of proof here by asking to get this to the front page. Asking for evidence and reasoning is hardly trolling.

I was referring to yhud previous comment on being naive. Asking questions such as yours is indeed not trolling and apologize for the confusion.

As for your question there is as far as we know little news coming from Syria and rejon who is commenting here as well is on the case to get more info.

MaleKitten, yhud said both "you are speaking about 'legal charge' and about a country like Syria at the same time ... How naive are you?" and "unjustly how?".

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