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Digital Sketches

digital citizen media, ict with a focus on Central Asia and the Middle East.

The longread about Bassel, the young Syrian digital activist who grows into a spider in the web of the digital revolution in Syria is available in English now.  ‘Bassel, behind the screens of the Syrian Resistance’ tells the true story of the turbulent life of this digital activist who eventually has to pay a heavy price, like so many others. Five years after his arrest Bassel’s wife and closest family members announced summer 2017 his death was officially confirmed by the Assad regime.

Bassel cover ENG

‘Bassel’s journalists are having trouble getting videos and other material out of the besieged city of Daraa. To begin with, there are technical problems. The electricity is constantly going out, and transferring files takes forever. Bassel is really disappointed with his open-source software, which doesn’t work at all well. He’s never been a fan of Apple, which operates with copyright-protected, proprietary software, but at least his iPhone works properly and he posts:

“when you film under live gunfire you don’t want your SD card to fail or your system to hang. that’s why I do prefer iPhone 4 and the kodak playsport camera over any android gadget in those situations. who cares about open source when you risk your life to film something then a stupid bug kill the device?” (Facebook, 1:12 p.m., May 17, 2011)

As fate would have it, the father of Steve Jobs—Apple’s deceased co-founder—is from Syria. He will make an emotional appeal to the Syrian regime on YouTube: “If you want more Steve Jobs, stop the killing of Syrian children.” Despite the difference in principles—Apple’s products are the antithesis of open-source software—Bassel admires Steve Jobs. In his eyes Jobs was a phenomenon, a supergeek.
Not only is the technology faltering; there are logistical problems as well. How do we get this hard drive or that correspondent from point A to point B? What if the car doesn’t come in time? Didn’t anyone think to bring backup batteries along? Is the road to Suwayda safe? Who would know, and can we trust them? And where will we sleep tonight? If a correspondent can’t be reached, is it because he didn’t hear his cell, or is his battery low, or is there something seriously wrong?’

This true story reconstructs Bassels life, through research and interviews with his friends in Beirut, Paris and London, one year before his arrest March 2012. The text of this story (letter from Bassel) was smuggled in through Bassel’s wife Noura. Bassel read and added to the text, which Noura managed to smuggle out again.


The longread is avaliable at Amazon,  Google Play, Smashwords and Kobe

The Bassel Khartabil Memorial Fund, by Creative Commons

On the death of Bassel Khartabil, MIT Media Lab

Missing Syrian internet activist executed, CNN

‘The piece also provides context around Khartabil’s capture by including a great amount of detail about the Syrian protests and the technical difficulties around smuggling video outside of Syria.’ according to a review on CNET.

An article on #FreeBassel day (15th March) published on Global Voices Online

For an excerpt of the story look here.

For more information see this scroll and earlier posts below (most in Dutch).


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