Bassel Khartabil, open source developer, Wikipedian, and free culture advocate, was taken from his friends and family he loves four years ago this week. On March 15, 2012, Bassel was kidnapped from the streets of Damascus by Syrian military intelligence. Since then, we know that he has suffered torture, solitary confinement, arbitrary detention, dangerously overcrowded prison conditions, and even the bombing of his prison’s neighbourhood by Syrian opposition forces.
What we don’t know right now is his current location, the state of his health, or even whether he is still alive. Bassel was taken from his civilian prison cell in Adra jail four months ago and was swallowed up by the country’s military field courts. No news of him has emerged since then, though rumors of a death sentence have caused anguish for his many supporters.
This week, EFF joins Human Rights Watch and 30 other organizations in demanding that the Syrian authorities reveal the whereabouts of Bassel and release him immediately. At a moment when parties in the Syrian conflict are working toward a peace process, and a fragile ceasefire still stands, public news of Bassel would demonstrate a concrete commitment to ending the tragedies and mistakes of the civil war.
Bassel is more than just one more person who became trapped between sides in a chaotic war: for the thousands of his colleagues in free culture inside and outside Syria, he is a symbol of what that country could have been, and could still become. His release could mark a new start, a time when Syria can look to rebuild, and re-engage with the rest of the world using its best and brightest civilian minds.
The world wants to know: where is Bassel? Now is the time for those who control his fate to answer.
The Free Bassel movement is holding vigils for Bassel this Saturday in London, Paris, Berlin, San Francisco, Boston and many more locations. You can join your nearest demonstration, sign Bassel’s petition, or help organize your own event. The more attention Bassel’s case receives, the more chance we may hear news.