Christopher Adams: Sure. I know Bassel through his work on Aiki Framework, which has been the technology behind projects like Open Clip Art Library and Open Font Library. I first met Bassel in Singapore at the end of 2009 for a event organized by my friend Joi Ito. After that we traveled all over the world doing workshops, presentations and working on projects together.
FB: How did the Amnesty International Taiwan event come about?
CA: Well, first the momentum started in June with the launch of the #FREEBASSEL campaign at http://freebassel.org/ where we’ve had almost 2,000 people sign the petition and accumulated about 40 news articles. Then last month Amnesty International picked up the case and made an official report about Bassel. They did a really good job of gathering background reports and information on the ground. And it was great that they made an appeal for people to start writing letters to the Syrian authorities.
As far as the event in Taiwan, it was organized through the help of my old friend Daisy Lin. Daisy has organized Amnesty events before for the local Amnesty Taiwan chapter; she’s a really great activist in Taiwan—a woman of action. She took the Amnesty International report about Bassel to Amnesty Taiwan, and they were very interested in the case. They started by translating the report into Chinese.
For those of you who want to organize a #FREEBASSEL Amnesty event in your own town, you might want to find someone local who’s already involved with the organization. It helps to pitch yourself and also Bassel as a “friend of Amnesty”.
FB: Good to know. What about the logistics of the event?
CA: Daisy made a Facebook event page to help start the whole thing. I had been resisting making a Facebook account but joined for this reason alone. It was there that we posted newspaper articles, information about Bassel, and reached out to others in Taipei to join.
FB: And how was the actual event received? I assume without knowing Bassel personally there was a bit of a disconnect.
CA: Yeah, none of the people knew about Bassel so the event required giving some context of Syria and Bassel as a person to help give people an idea of why he’s important to me and the free technology sector in general. I ended up putting together a presentation about Bassel and showed everyone a video about the situation in Syria via AlJazeera. Then, with the letters, postcards and stamps we had organized, we all wrote letters to the Syrian authorities asking for Bassel’s release. The next step was to try to echo this activity back into social media where some people wrote blog posts and uploaded photos.
FB: Glad to hear it went well and some letters were sent.
CA: One last thing that I should stress is that Amnesty International set a goal of having our letters sent in by October 30, 2012. It’s crucial that we act now to do what we can to support Amnesty’s campaign and to help free Bassel.