It’s a bit awkward to attempt to frame this text as a letter, since it clearly more of an interview or two with some informative prose embedded in between. I still maintain that it is a letter, and I’ll interject as guide through its components (thus rendering it more letter-like). But I’ll cut to the chase - it’s been nearly 2 months since Ramadan ended this year, so it seemed a fitting time for me to compile this information from Dona relating to Creative Commons Iftars together with commentary from your uncle Oussama regarding the role of Iftar in your family. Given the political instability and conflict that is occurring in many countries in the region of the world in which Ramadan is observed (and where Iftar is celebrated) in high concentration, its is encouraging to read about how this tradition functions on a purely social level of sharing. And to think about how, through association with creativity, technology, and informal dialogue, these ideas and traditions carve out a space for peaceful exchange, even innovation, that is deeply participatory given its roots in spiritual tradition. But I’ll get on with it:
Talking with Dona of Creative Commons, Pt. 2
I was reading about CC Iftar, which I understand started from an idea Bassel had - could you tell me more about the concept, how it got started?
CC Iftar was a project that we created, Bassel and I, back in 2010 when we were working at Aikilab in Damascus, the collective space we opened in June 2010. Bassel was very excited to have an office of his own that could be used as a collaborative space, he worked with other folks on very geeky projects like building machines, I mean like in a maker’s lab. Then they did open source programming but also wanted to open up a little bit to a non-geeky audience so we came up with the idea of the CC Iftar, which was supposed to be a moment to celebrate sharing, a very important element in Islam especially during Ramadan, and of course a key concept for CC.
We did everything from Damascus. A friend of Bassel’s at Aikilab designed the logo, Bassel made the site, I did the fundraising to buy food, and we coordinated with 3 other cities (Dubai, Amman, and Cairo) to host the first CC Iftars ever. Our Damascus Iftar was based on a cooperation with the CC Lebanon community. We invited some of them to Damascus and they gave a workshop about photography and remix together with Syrian artists and then we showed the outcome during the Iftar.
After that, Damascus of course couldn’t host another Iftar. But other cities in the Arab world have kept the project going and hosted CC Iftars in many countries including Lebanon, Jordan, Morocco, Tunisia, UAE, Qatar, Iraq, Egypt. The project has been ongoing since 2010. Every year, since 2012 (when he was arrested) Bassel is remembered in the CC Iftars held in the Arab region.
Above is the logo for Aikilab, the creative space in Damascus Bassel co-founded in 2010. Below: I asked Dona about what took place during Ramadan this year among the CC Arab communities and there was a great deal to report! Read on… (and check out her full article about CC Iftars on Creative Commons blog)
2013 marked the fourth consecutive year that Creative Commons communities in the Arab world have self-organized and hosted CC Iftars to celebrate the breaking of the fast during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan in the spirit of sharing. CC communities in Egypt, Jordan, the UAE, Syria, Morocco, Iraq, Lebanon, Qatar, Tunisia have actively contributed to the Iftar project by hosting community events, screening movies, featuring light talks, charity marathons and remixing competitions.
During Ramadan 2013 CC Iftars were organized in Qatar, Iraq, Lebanon and Jordan. As in previous years, CC Iftars proved to be an ideal venue for hosting community-driven discussions that facilitate and grow new ideas and creative projects. They have also demonstrated the ongoing enthusiasm and savvy for self-organization within the CC Arab communities despite the political and social unrest in the region.
CC Iftar Doha brought together a diverse community of technologists, graphic designers, entrepreneurs, and photographers with a common interest in growing digital Arabic content. The event also served as a fundraiser for the orphans in Qatar.
The CC community in Iraq celebrated CC Iftars for the second year this year. Given the deteriorating security situation in the country, this would be remarkable even in a single city. But this year the event was hosted in five: Baghdad, Kirkuk, Dhi Qar, Sulaymaniyah and al-Diwaniyyah. Organized by the Iraqi Network for Social Media, a community network for bloggers and free culture enthusiasts in Iraq, these Iftars brought together a diverse group of bloggers, journalists, photographers and artists across the country to celebrate the spirit of sharing by screening movies, hosting brainstorming sessions, and holding a ceremony to remember Iraqi orphans.
CC Iftar Lebanon was hosted in the brand new multi-purpose space of Alt City in Hamra district, Beirut. The community gathered to celebrate the accomplishments of CC Lebanon, a formal CC affiliate since 2010, and to discuss new ideas to improve the culture of sharing in the country through artistic and creative projects.
CC Jordan, one of the oldest CC affiliates in the Arab region, celebrated its second CC Iftar in Amman, bringing together open-source lovers, geeks, bloggers, and digital activists. The gathering was hosted at Fann wa Chai in the historical district of Jabal Lweibdeh by the Jordan Open Source Association, who has been an active promoter of CC and the culture of sharing throughout the country.
Bassel, you should be proud of how far your idea has grown! In order to round this out, I also asked your uncle Oussama about his perception of Iftar in general, as well as for a report on what took place with his/your family this year during Iftars this Ramadan.
Mini Iftar Interview with Oussama
What is the importance of Iftar for you and your family?
Iftar is a very important social event in our community in general (even as a non-religious family) as it is an event that gathers the whole family together every day for 1 complete month.
What do you think about connecting Iftars with the philosophy of Creative Commons?
Iftar being connected to Create Commons is not something I am surprised with at all. You see, as per Arabic traditions (and Muslim Traditions in general), you make Iftar during Ramadan not only for you and your family, but also for everybody who knocks on the door, asking for water and a meal at the time of Iftar. So it is again the idea of sharing resources for everybody in need of those resources. If this is not Creative Commons, then what?
Do you have any stories about things that happened during Iftars with your family/community this year that you could share?
My daughter always remembered Bassel (Uncle Bassel as she calls him) during this year’s Iftar. She always prayed for having him with us next Ramadan.
As a programmer, what do you see as the relationship behind Iftar and computers/technology? Or if you don’t see one, why?
I don’t see any relationship.. It is a social ritual that you can connect to things with positive meaning in your life… and so you could do this with programming and computer technology, if you wanted to.
Computers, technology, spirituality, social ritual…
In closing for now, the last piece from the conversation with Dona
Talking with Dona from Creative Commons, Pt. 3
What is the status of CC Syria presently? What do you imagine Bassel would be doing in his role there if he were free?
CC Syria is completely inactive now. This was even before Bassel was arrested. Since the uprising started it has been very difficult to host any public events, let alone those related to open source or CC. It’s clear that the Syrian regime feels threatened by everything concerning openness and sharing, and everything that brings people together instead of atomizing them and isolating them, as this regime has been doing with Syrian citizens for more than 40 yrs.
I have no idea what Bassel would be doing if he were free. I just like to imagine that I can ask him this very same question when he is out..but, most importantly, he has to be out!
23 September 2013