May 20, 2014 | By Jillian C. York

To Bassel On His 33rd Birthday

Today, Bassel (Safadi) Khartabil is celebrating his 33rd birthday in prison.  This day is the 799th since the young software developer was detained in Damascus, Syria.  That’s nearly 800 days that Bassel has not been able to write code, or tweet, or hug his family, or do any of the other things that he should have been doing over the past few years.

The young man dubbed an innovator and top global thinker by Foreign Policy has instead marked his days behind bars while the Syrian conflict continues to rage outside.  Bassel, whose dreams of openness and sharing led him to make so many wonderful things, is now silenced by a government that fears any challenge to its narrative.

But Bassel’s many friends and allies around the world are working hard to ensure that his story is heard, regardless of what the Syrian government wants.  The Free Bassel campaign, now entering its third year, has been holding events all over the world to tell Bassel’s story and—in the spirit of his ethos—create.

“Bassel is a very important person not only for the open source community, but also for the world. He's a visionary talent in terms of technical skills, and also deeply committed to human rights and the freedom of knowledge and expression,” says Niki Korth, an artist and free culture activist who has led the Letters for Bassel campaign. “Tech innovators are ubiquitous, but innovators motivated by peace, openness, and community, and who have lived what Bassel has in Syria, before and during prison, are as rare as they are necessary for hope of a better future, a future we all play a role in creating."

This year, in honor of Bassel’s 33rd birthday, we’d like you to join us in making sure Bassel’s voice remains heard.  You can submit birthday wishes here, and we encourage you to tweet about Bassel and his story with the hashtags #freebassel and #itsaboutallofus.


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