Bassel Khartabil, Beloved Technology Innovator, Arrested March 15, 2012. Executed October 2015. Death Confirmed August 2017.

Interview with Giorgos Cheliotis

10 September 2012

Free Bassel: Hi Giorgos, can you give a us a little background about yourself and how you know Bassel?

Giorgos: I’m an assistant professor of communications and new media at the [National University of Singapore] (http://profile.nus.edu.sg/fass/cnmgc/) and the public lead of [Creative Commons in Singapore] (http://wiki.creativecommons.org/Singapore). I’m passionate about exploring the ways in which the Internet and society influence one another, and the ways in which people around the world use technology to reach out to each other. I met Bassel through his engagement with Creative Commons and later also through other technology projects he was involved in, both in Singapore and abroad.

FB: Cool. Could you talk a bit about that experience with Bassel and his contribution to technology and free software both in Singapore and elsewhere? Also, how would these regions and the world benefit from his release?

GC: Bassel is a great programmer, he has the enthusiasm of a child and is smart to boot. He is also a wonderful person, kind, sensitive, and easy to make friends with. He is one of the few people I have had the pleasure to know from the Middle East who are genuinely excited about the use of technology and its potential for improving people’s lives in the region and beyond. Bassel genuinely loves his country, not in a nationalistic sense, but in the purest sense of caring for the fate of its people and wanting to be with them. I remember I tried to convince him to stay in Singapore when he was here, but I think he felt that his heart was with his family and loved ones in Syria. With his international network of contacts in Creative Commons and the free culture / free software movement, Bassel could easily seek a better fortune for himself elsewhere. Instead, he wanted to be in Syria and make a difference there. Someone with his skills, qualities and love for the region should be valued and nurtured. There is no doubt in my mind that Bassel has a lot to give and he must be given the opportunity to do so.

FB: What a stand-up guy. How about we finish with a little anecdote about Bassel? A memory of him that you feel distills his character best.

GC: I remember when Bassel once brought several [kufiyas] (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Keffiyeh) (traditional Arab head scarves for men) to an international Creative Commons event. He brought them all the way from home and taught those of us who didn’t know how to wear them. It was not only a nice surprise; it also made us (an international bunch attending a conference in South Korea) feel just that little bit closer to the Arab world. It is very much like him to make such a generous and meaningful gesture.

FB: Here’s an idea: Let’s all start wearing #FREEBASSEL kufiyas until Bassel is released.