#TheyCantStopUs: People stand in solidarity with Syria on social media after execution of award-winning digital activist
People around the world are standing in solidarity with Syria in a social media tribute to beloved digital activist Bassel Khartabil, after it was confirmed that he has been executed by the Syrian government after years of detention and torture.
Bassel dedicated his life to championing freedom online and offline and is widely credited with opening up the internet in the notoriously closed country. He set up Syria’s first hacker space and used his skills to contribute to online communities like Creative Commons, Mozilla Firefox and Wikipedia. He also spearheaded an award-winning project to digitally reconstruct the ancient ruins of Palmyra. Bassel’s efforts won him the Index on Censorship Digital Freedom Award in 2013 and Foreign Policy magazine named him as one of its Top 100 Global Thinkers in 2012.
The #FreeBassel campaign and The Syria Campaign are calling on people around the world to visit the website www.theycantstopus.org/en to share Bassel’s defiant “They can’t stop us” tweet, which he posted before his detention in 2012. You can view Bassel’s original tweet here.
The Families for Freedom movement, co-founded by Bassel’s wife Noura, said:
“Bassel will remain a role model for our children and grandchildren. Like all of our missing loved ones, he was a believer in peace, education and innovation as the only means by which Syria can be rebuilt. We will carry Bassel’s belief that change can only happen through dialogue and peaceful activism and not through violence.”
In 2011, Bassel participated in the peaceful uprisings that swept through Syria and the Arab world. He met his future wife, Noura, at one of these protests.
The following year, in March 2012, just days before his wedding to Noura, Bassel was taken from the street in Damascus amid a wave of arbitrary arrests by the Syrian regime. He was detained for eight months, during which time he was held in solitary confinement, tortured and denied contact with the outside world.
The #FreeBassel campaign was established to call for his release, Amnesty International also launched a campaign urging the Syrian authorities to grant Bassel access to his family, a lawyer, and medical attention and the US State Department singled him out on International Human Rights Day 2015 as a “prisoner of conscience”.
As a result of these campaigns, Bassel resurfaced in a prison in Damascus nine months later and was allowed to exchange wedding vows with Noura from behind bars.
However, in October 2015, he was abruptly transferred from Damascus prison to an undisclosed location. At that time, all communications between Bassel and the outside world ceased. Rumours of his execution surfaced, but have only been confirmed now. His wife, Noura, publicly announced Bassel’s death on the 1 August 2017.
Creative Commons said:
“The global commons of art, history, and knowledge, are stronger because of Bassel’s contributions, and our community is better because of his work and his friendship. His death is a terrible reminder of what many individuals and families risk in order to make a better society.”
See Bassel’s original #TheyCantStopUs tweet here
More information on the #TheyCantStopUs campaign here
More information on #FreeBassel campaign here
More information on The Syria Campaign and Families for Freedom here
Rights groups statement condemning the execution of Bassel here