Death of an Internet Freedom Fighter

“We are heartbroken to share the news that Bassel Khartabil was executed by the Syrian government some time after his disappearance in October 2015 in Damascus, Syria.

“Bassel Khartabil, also known as Bassel Safadi, was born in Damascus, Syria on May 22, 1981. He grew up to pursue an education and career in computer engineering. He was the co-founder of the collaborative research company Aiki Lab, and the CTO of the publisher Al-Aous. He served as the first project lead and public affiliate for Creative Commons Syria, and contributed to numerous Internet projects, such as Mozilla Firefox and Wikipedia.

“On March 15, 2012, Bassel Khartabil was arrested in the Mazzeh district of Damascus. For more than three years he was detained by the Syrian government at Adra Prison in Damascus. On October 3, 2015, Bassel was removed from his prison cell, and was sentenced to death by a Military Tribunal. We know now for a fact that Bassel Khartabil was executed by the Syrian government some time in October 2015, and we are demanding to know the exact date he was tried and then executed. No information at all was provided to his family until July 2017. The details of his sentencing and execution, and the whereabouts of his remains, are unknown at this time.

“Bassel Khartabil is survived by his wife, Noura Ghazi Safadi, as well as his mother and father.


Creative Commons Bassel Khartabil Memorial Fund

“At the request of Bassel’s family, Creative Commons is announcing today that it has established the Bassel Khartabil Memorial Fund to support projects in the spirit of Bassel’s work. Creative Commons is accepting donations, and has seeded the fund with $10,000. Bassel was our friend and colleague, and CC invites the public to celebrate Bassel’s legacy and support the continuation of his powerful work and open values in a global community.

Contributions to the fund will go towards projects, programs, and grants to support individuals advancing collaboration, community building, and leadership development in the open communities of the Arab world. The fund will also support the digital preservation, sharing, and remix of creative works and historical artifacts. All of these projects are deeply intertwined with CC’s core mission and values, and those of other communities to which Bassel contributed.

Visit the Bassel Khartabil Memorial Fund page for more on how to get involved. Learn more about Bassel and his work at Wikipedia,, EFF, BBC, CNN, and Al Jazeera.”

— Announcing the Bassel Khartabil Memorial Fund

Here in the “free world,” extraordinary efforts to silence and shut down free software and free culture by large corporations are ongoing.  If software freedom was the unquestioned norm I have to wonder: would Bassel even have been arrested?

Today the EFF released these letters Bassel wrote from jail before he disappeared.

What an extraordinary young man.  My heart goes out to his family.

“Around the world, activists and advocates seek the sharing of culture, and open knowledge.

Creative Commons, and 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.”

— Creative Commons Statement on the death of CC friend and colleague Bassel Khartabil

Image Credit: Bassel Safadi by Joi Ito is released under a Creative Commons Attribution License


Thanks for the memories, Leonard Nimoy

Leonard Nimoy RIP

I was so sorry to hear of the passing of Leonard Nimoy, a man who made such a great impression on so many of us with his incredible portrayal of the most decidedly human-alien, Mr. Spock.

Image Credit
This is a thumbnail drawing of Mr. Spock I did (yes, I used the pseudonym “Vega” for my artwork back in the day) for the science fiction fanzine CANEKTION, my very first self publishing effort (circa 1970s). Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported (CC BY 3.0)

Farewell to Peter O’Toole

Peter O'Toole in "Lawrence of Arabia"

The first time I saw “Lawrence of Arabia” was on a small black & white tv screen. It didn’t matter that it was a widescreen epic with sweeping desert panoramas… it was electrifying, even on that small screen. Seeing the film later very large at the Ontario Place Cinesphere was breathtaking. But O’Toole’s performance was just as gripping on the small screen as the large.

Peter O’Toole was always astounding. Whether young and beautiful or old and crochety, O’Toole’s performance in every film, good or bad, was simply transcendent. He was a working actor. He did play in many films, some sublime, others atrocious. Whether committing a caper with Audrey Hepburn, or imprisoning Katherine Hepburn, Peter O’Tool was always entertaining.

Some personal favorites include:
Peter O'Toole - "The Lion In Winter"

I disagreed with him when he chose to publicly badmouth the director and the movie Troy, as I found the film to be awesome, and possibly even the equal of “Lawrence.” Of course, Peter O’Toole was the fresh faced young star of the earlier epic, and merely a supporting character character actor in this one.  Still, O’Toole’s Priam was dead on, but then, any time he stepped in front of a camera, he was.   Even singing in Man of La Mancha. In fact, I might just re-watch Troy tonight.

Years ago my friend (who shall remain nameless for his own protection) worked with Peter O’Toole on a Canadian tv movie.  Although my friend couldn’t sneak me in to meet the man, he smuggled out bits and pieces of Peter O’Toole for me… the remains of his toothpaste tube, a cigarette butt, and some actual Peter O’Toole hair trimmings, swept from the studio floor.

The Stunt Man Tag line: “If God could do the tricks that we can do, he’d be a happy man.”

“The Stunt Man” came out when we were in college. As film students, we were all blown away by the mysterious, crazed, brilliant, and above all, omnipotent director, Eli Cross.

“I’m not an actor, I’m a movie star!”

— “My Favorite Year”

O’Toole himself easily qualified as both, and his brilliant portrayal of the Errol Flynnesque character helped make “My Favorite Year” wonderful; the best kind of comedy, played across different levels, all of them brilliant.

He will be missed.

Image Credit:
Peter O’Toole as T.E.Lawrence, Wikipedia public domain image: screen capture from uncopyrighted movie trailer for “Lawrence of Arabia”

O’Toole as King Henry in “The Lion In Winter Publicity Photo in the Public Domain ~ also from Wikipedia