Talk:Bassel Khartabil/Archive 1

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This is a Wikipedia article[edit]

With all due respect, it does not have the urgency required. It needs to state that we fear for his life. It needs to say that he is a Wikipedian and all that in the first two sentences. Thanks, GerardM (talk) 10:15, 25 November 2015 (UTC)

The page says that he is a Wikipedian in its very opening sentence. odder (talk) 10:17, 25 November 2015 (UTC)
It does not say that we fear for his life. This article has no urgency and consequently it is not what is needed. GerardM (talk) 12:48, 25 November 2015 (UTC)
I agree with you both, and the solution IMO is to put a sentence or two before the "Who is Bassel" section. Simply repeating the text of the banner might be a good option. It needs to be clear from the very beginning why this unusual page exists. But "we fear for his life" is not a piece of "who is he." -Pete F (talk) 18:11, 25 November 2015 (UTC)
What about - as a compromise - either adding a version of the proposed banner along the top with some intro info - or just a simple TLDR style message box along the top. Thoughts? --Varnent (talk)(COI) 15:19, 26 November 2015 (UTC)
Yes, good idea. But I'd characterize that not as a "compromise," but simply an improvement. This isn't about Gerard of odder or any of us. It's about Bassel and Wikimedia. -Pete F (talk) 18:48, 26 November 2015 (UTC)

Images from the Free Bassel effort[edit]

Bassels supporters, including the #FreeBassel campaign, have said they support doing something like this, and that they could coordinate it with their existing network with a few days of advance notice.

Possible photos they've suggested for use, from commons:Category:Bassel_Khartabil:

Icons and sketches:

The sketch of Bassel behind bars is a mix of sketch and photo, if it could be cleaned up and re-rasterized that rectangle might make a compelling icon. SJ talk  19:44, 27 November 2015 (UTC)

We can also get explicit free license for all of the images that appear on this FB page (already under free licenses, but we can get that confirmed in writing). SJ talk  22:54, 30 November 2015 (UTC)
Wonderful! What can we do to get that explicit release? Is the copyright owner the same for all the photos? The Facebook page doesn't state who owns the copyright or what license they're under. I like this one quite a lot. Many thanks for your work on this. -Pete F (talk) 00:24, 1 December 2015 (UTC)


What is his Wikipedia username? I want to see if he was an established user or a passerby. 4nn1l2 (talk) 22:52, 25 November 2015 (UTC)

General questions[edit]

I don't know this topic, but perhaps it is useful to give some feedback anyway just as an audience reaction

1) Do you know that Bassel Khartabil and/or his family want this attention? When I think of writing some letter the first thing that comes to mind is that it might only piss the Syrian government off worse. I know that letter-writing campaigns used to be effective in the Cold War, but there's no real war of ideologies any more, just a few people in each country with power each using it however they please - so I would feel far more comfortable with some reassurance. Wnt (talk) 23:00, 25 November 2015 (UTC)

2) I'd like to see more information, if it exists, in this regarding torture - we may not have it in his case but it should be out there about Syria in general. The family said he was in "very bad physical condition" [1] but that's vague. The article right now makes it sound like his 'torture' was 8 months solitary confinement, but a) the source I just gave said that was just the beginning of it and it was ongoing b) you're not going to impress Americans, who scarcely give a second thought to the government putting people in solitary for 20 years if they feel like it, no due process required, kids, mentally ill, whatever.

3) I understand that the "Wikimedia nexus" is very important - you're getting around the usual neutrality by coming to the aid of one of our editors. Nonetheless... can we name a broader class of political prisoners to rally around?

4) This appeal is targeted toward the Syrian government, but should it go somewhere else? It seems like the West is on the verge of packing it in and admitting that the Assads will run Syria for the next 100 years ... can we take this moment to ask them to make some demands in exchange for a renewed tolerance of Assad that would include a comprehensive set of political prisoners to be amnestied on condition of leaving the country? I feel like they're just going to dawdle around watching ISIS burn the place for the next year or two, then all of a sudden they'll be OK with Assad and not speak a word about Bassel or anybody else.

5) Right now you seem to ask for the moon. Should you somehow present the concept that Bassel is a valuable hostage, a trade good who shouldn't just be killed out of hand ... that the Syrian government can present itself in this regard as being more civilized, or at least more intelligent, than the Turkmen rebels who shot at the Russian pilots? Wnt (talk) 23:00, 25 November 2015 (UTC)

On (1) the answer is yes. -Pete F (talk) 08:32, 26 November 2015 (UTC)
On (2) - the difficulty is that is that torture is not often documented in a way that we can all look at and go "ah yes - this clearly happened." Generally, the people doing the torturing don't want evidence made available. My personal experience suggests you mostly have to go on witnesses that saw the physical outcomes, and assessment by agencies like the UN on if the circumstances support the claim (which the UN seems to believe they do). Probably about the most we will find that are things like the Alkarama article and this UN report. Also - that article says the torture happened in his first few days and that he was then placed in solitary confinement: "Khartabil had, in fact, suffered severe torture both in the premises of the Military Branch 215 where he had first been held for five days and of the Interrogation Division Branch 248 where he had been detained for the following month." It is unlikely further details will be known until he is freed. --Varnent (talk)(COI) 16:00, 26 November 2015 (UTC)
on 3), this is a quite unusual case. A community members and contributor whose life is in danger because of their efforts; that trend is totally anathema to our work. I don't believe this has happened before, but we see more and more journalists being threatened with execution similarly for simply doing their job, so it may not be the last. But I think it will be extremely rare. On 5), you have a point, we are following the lead of the FREEBASSEL movement here. But the MIT Media lab did attempt this by offering him a position there, in a very public letter. Perhaps they can advise on what works. SJ talk  16:35, 27 November 2015 (UTC)

Syrian government[edit]

I assume "Syrian government" refers to the Bashar government (since the text mentions he is being held near Damascus) but given the messy situation there maybe the text could be phrased more clearly. I am working on the Hungarian translation, and Hungary has basically denounced Bashar's government some time ago and acknowledged the Syrian National Coalition as the lawful government of Syria. Asking people to request their elected politicians to call "the Syrian government" to do stuff is a bit awkward in the situation. --Tgr (talk) 06:54, 27 November 2015 (UTC)

@Tgr: Syrian government refers to the government of Syria that is represented at the United Nations, as one of the suggested courses of action is to contact its Permanent Representative to the UN. If I am not much mistaken, the only international organisation where Syria is not represented by the government headed by President al-Assad is the Arab League, so in general the phrase "Syrian government" should be pretty unambiguous, I'd say; however, suggestions as to how to improve this part of the sentence and avoid possible misunderstanding are welcome. odder (talk) 20:38, 27 November 2015 (UTC)
Fair enough, if this is peculiar to Hungary, I'll just deal with it in the translation. --Tgr (talk) 22:21, 27 November 2015 (UTC)

Without charge[edit]

The text says "he has been held in prison without public trial or charge" but then later "a military prosecutor who charged him with spying for an enemy State" - seems like a contradiction. --Tgr (talk) 06:55, 27 November 2015 (UTC)

the former statement is true. The latter is not, and it is most dangerous to Bassel to repeat it (as has been seen in other cases, prosecutors are not subtle and might use any public mention of such a claim as proof of the claim. Even if the mention is mistaken citogenesis.). Ideally such sentences would be revdeleted. SJ talk  16:41, 27 November 2015 (UTC)
@Sj: The part about Bassel being charged comes from this Alkarama article. If it's wrong, then obviously I'd be quite happy to remove that part altogether, however we ought to let Alkarama know about it, too. @Tgr: The intention behind this sentence was to let it be known that Bassel hasn't been charged with anything in public (as is customary in civilian jurisdictions) but rather during a secret meeting. I'm gonna have a deeper look at it — if Sj can confirm whether it's really true or not, then we'd have this issue solved, otherwise I'll probably reword it. Suggestions welcome :) odder (talk) 20:29, 27 November 2015 (UTC)
I know that the confusion doesn't start from Wikipedia, WP has at some points been quoting sources like that article. I hear from Bassel's supporters that it isn't true, but is dangerous; that's all I know, COI and all. If there's uncertainty, we might at least not want to provide an echo chamber for it. SJ talk  21:14, 27 November 2015 (UTC)
All right, then. @Greg and I will be working on implementing a few suggestions — like those posted by @Tgr above — so I'll remove that as well. odder (talk) 21:35, 27 November 2015 (UTC)

How can I support your efforts[edit]

Those bullet points are very confusing. The first asks for immediate access by Bassel to his family etc. the second for immediate release. Are those supposed to be alternatives or what?

The same confusion also appears in other parts of the text. E.g. "over 30 human rights organisations [called the government] to reveal Bassel's whereabouts and reunite him with his family" - what does that mean in plain language? Letting him free? Allowing the family to visit in prison? --Tgr (talk) 06:59, 27 November 2015 (UTC)

Good point. This page should defer to the family and existing captains, but be consistent. SJ talk  16:49, 27 November 2015 (UTC)
I think I might be missing something here, @Sj. But in general, nicely spotted, @Tgr. I took this wording from the Amnesty International page which someone linked on the mailing list, without giving it a second thought (except for using my own words as far as possible). I'd be quite happy to remove the part about giving Bassel access to his family since this is actually what immediate release will effectively achieve anyway. odder (talk) 20:44, 27 November 2015 (UTC)


  • The current straw poll says that if a banner is run it will tentatively be run from Nov 29 to Dec 6. (Implied: at 100%? On every pag load?)
    It might make more sense to have else than 100% saturation, or to focus the banner on a smaller range of days around an existing message campaign by other Bassel supporters.
    This is all hugely fluctuating at the moment and not at all set in stone. I know Jimmy suggested on his talk page to have the banners running for a short period of time, and I generally agree with this suggestion. However, I think we ought to accommodate the requirements of the end-of-year fundraising campaign, so I want to wait and see what the Foundation's opinion on that is. odder (talk) 20:50, 27 November 2015 (UTC)
  • December 10 is the UN's global Human Rights Day. That would seem like a good target for coordinating a message with the existing network; and would generate a lot of additional discussion around coverage of the Day itself. SJ talk  17:02, 27 November 2015 (UTC)
    This is a very thoughtful suggestion, thanks, @Sj. odder (talk) 20:50, 27 November 2015 (UTC)
    +1, thanks for pointing this out Sj. -Pete F (talk) 01:01, 28 November 2015 (UTC)

Ok, I talked to others working on FreeBassel campaigns, and they are planning a campaign for the day of Dec 10th. If this can be coordinated with that it might have good resonance. We're setting up a comms list for that campaign, which could be synced with the banner talk page. SJ talk  21:35, 30 November 2015 (UTC)

Possible banner, and poll on running one[edit]

There's a discussion here and on wikimedia-l about running a sitenotice banner about Bassel's situation, and directing people to this page. Most proposals have been to do this for a short period of time.

A straw poll is currently taking place about whether a banner should be run. The poll will continue until November 28. SJ talk  19:40, 27 November 2015 (UTC)

Is there any news on Bassel ? Lotje (talk) 09:30, 13 June 2016 (UTC)

doesn't look like it. :( Ijon (talk) 22:04, 13 June 2016 (UTC)
It makes me so feel so very very sad. The more because I keep thinking, maybe his family and closest friends do not want us to interfere with this. Meaning with this, my userpages I changed, hoping someone out there would be able to do something wonderful. Lotje (talk) 04:50, 14 June 2016 (UTC)