Peer-to-peer infrastructure and thinking applied for an entire country: Ecuador

FLOK: Free/Libre Open Knowledge
Also known as the social knowledge economy project.

Ecuador is exploring how the principle of open knowledge might reshape its economic and social development.

Michel Bauwens, founder of the P2P Foundation, was heading the research department of FLOK. His direct involvement ended June 2014.

I know Michel from the early days of our we-magazine. He contacted us after the launch of the first volume and contributed to the second one: “The Emergence of Open Design and Open Manufacturing.”

When FLOK started it was announced as the first serious attempt of an entire country to peer-to-peer structure it’s economy and society. It seemed to be backed by the government, so the translation of the theory and already existing practice into legislative (law, government structure, educational institutions ..) was planned to be part of the process! Quote Michel Bauwens: “When we started the FLOK process, it was presented to us as a project that was strategic for the Ecuadorian government, as supported by the Ministry of Knowledge and the Secretariat of Innovation and would systematically move the country to a social knowledge economy, and that would be enthusiastically received by civil organisations.”

Reality turned out to be different – the “old system” was striking back in various forms. Michel describes it here in more details

The research done and made public is very helpful for our further way walking towards – what I call – a “Greater We”. In the following 4 videos Michel explains FLOK itself, the research they’ve done and their suggestions for education, economy (micro and macro) and society. A MUST SEE (20 minutes) for all those who are looking for post-capitalism models which put the concept of the commons in the center of the activities. It’s neither communism nor socialism, yes, it’s rather left than right. It provides meaning and value for the many. It’s trying to find a better balance between the rich and the poor.

What is FLOK?


Michel argues for a “reciprocity based license” which basically says: “If you contribute to our commons, you can use our commons. If you don’t contribute to our commons and you make a profit from it, then you have to share the profit with us.” This avoids piracy – so Michel – escpecially it would help rural areas to be exploited by big multi national corporations.

Value Regimes

Michel says that we’ve been moving from “Cognitive Capitalism” (which he explains in the video) to what he calls “Netarchical (= hierarchy in the Net) Capitalism” in which the creators of the value do NOT benefit from the financial outcome of the value created (examples: FACEBOOK, crowd working). In this system we haven’t democratized the means of monetisation. See the following graphic.


Michel suggests to move towards a (mature) civic peer-to-peer economy where the value returns to the value creators.

Technological Regimes

Michel is describing this 4 technological frames in which we experience today the commons – his suggestions is to move towards the GLOBAL COMMONS

global commons

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Experimenting …..

Slowly, slowly I am getting ready for another motorbike tour up to the Himalayas … final destination: Leh where I will stay with a friend and do some writing. Some stories of my life;-) But I am also planning to climb up a few passes (while Thomas is writing;-), Khardung La Pass and Chang La Pass are definitely high on the list.

So I am trying to figure out what is the best way to fix the camera on the bike … I want to get some video footage, not sure what for right now … Here is the first attempt. It’s filmed in Jhansi, leaving the town towards Gwalior (both MP) … the camera was (loosely) fixed in my pack back which I had above the tank … not ideal but the result is not too bad …

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Truth untold

Fukushima is just another story where governments and media try desperately to hide the truth … and so are all the EU governments … do they tell us anything about the perils? Nope.

Just watch and see what the future will bring because the present is a lie:

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Deo Bagh

In God’s garden I was in heaven ;-) Literally.

Deo Bagh is one of the BEST hotels I ever stayed! It is located in Gwalior, Madhya Pradesh, and it is the most perfect stop in between Ken River Lodge (where I stay in Khajuraho) and Delhi on a motorbike ride. It’s almost half way and it’s an oasis of silence. Just the perfect spot after 5 or 6 hours on the dirty dusty roads;-)

“Hallway” to the rooms

I arrived around 1 pm after a beautiful ride from Ken River via Orcha and Jhansi. By now the new motorbike was MINE;-) It was a bit tricky to find the place since I entered Gwalior at the complete opposite side, but with the help of an auto ricksha driver I made it through the busy, loud and chaotic center of Gwalior.

The moment you enter Deo Bagh you are in a different world.

Entrance of Deo Bagh

After a long hot shower in the HUGE bathroom I slept for 3.5 hours and when I woke up I felt like a newborn.
I walked around the temples of the Maharatsha which are part of the hotel property and enjoyed that NOBODY was there.
A quite unusual thing for India.

A light dinner in the evening and a good book to read was all I needed.
In the next morning I left for Dehli (via Agra) at 5 am.

And all of this for 40 Euro a night!
Not bad.

Here is a short video of the place – outdoor.

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It’s their only chance out …

… says Vini (alias Shyamendra Singh), the owner of Ken River Lodge in Panna, talking about the children in Panna, a small town in Madhya Pradesh. Ken River Lodge is my home when I am in Khajuraho or Panna. I know Vini for more than 2 years now and I am very happy that he embraced our idea of building the we_school skatepark in Panna. In this short little video clip he explains life in Panna and why it is important for the children to get something like a skatepark:

A bit outside Panna is the land where we build the skatepark. It is provided by Sanjay Tawari, a business man in Panna and father of two children. He is very much engaged in the social development of his hometown. It’s a beautiful piece of land – just so typical of Madhya Pradesh. Some huge trees at the Western border of the land and surrounded by villages where Adivasi live. A school is near by, they say 160 children go there.


During our meeting yesterday – overlooking Ken River – Sanjay and I discussed the items needed to build the skatepark, we went over the materail list which was provided by our German partner skate-aid, the NGO which is supervising the construction process.
Special thanks goes to Rahul from Khajuraho our translator; and thanks to Google translator which really helped well in finding some specific construction expressions in Hindi.

Sanjay on my left, Rahul on my right

The idea is not only to build a skatepark on this land but also a small we-lab with laptop computers, a cafeteria and 2,3 rooms where people can stay. The cafeteria and the rooms will be build by Sanjay and Vini, the rest we’ll do. The we-lab will be equipped with laptops which again will be provided by nextpractice … the program which combines skateboarding and learning will be designed by skate-aid and Nicola Claire. Can’t wait o see this entire thing taking of …


So the next steps will be to find the right guy to build the park – skate-aid is already looking for this person – and we at we-school are looking for more funds (another ARTBOARD/SKATEBOARD auction is on its way) and in addition we will raise money on social crowd funding platforms. But we have enough to start …

And here again a small chapter why we are doing this and why we think it is a good thing (by Nicola Claire):

The idea of combining fun with learning is not new, indeed, it is fundamentally the way children learn. We are taking this concept and constructing an environment which intrinsically combines an activity that is fun, but at the same time requires acquired skill, knowledge and practise, with a learning environment which provides that skill and knowledge. The young people will also have the opportunity to develop and extend their learning at a we-school hub on the same site. The young people who come to the skate-park will find everything that they need, from building their skateboard to becoming proficient users. Through the process they will learn English and maths. They will gain an understanding of force, balance and weight. They will experiment with art, colours, styles and design. They will discover body and muscle control, healthy eating and life-style choices. Above all, they will find ways to take what they have learnt back to their families and communities to support and enhance the quality of daily living.

Posted in ARTBOARDS/SKATEBORADS, India | 3 Comments

For a better tomorrow …

… is the aim of the Samarpan School for underprivileged children in Kishangarh, Delhi. The school was started in April 2007 with 40 children in the mornings, providing informal education. Today it has 160 children aged five to fifteen from nursery to class 5 studying from prescribed CBSE textbooks. Children leaving from class 5 are helped to get admission in senior secondary schools. A computer center was set up in February 2011 with ten computers and two teachers. Classes run from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Children receive a breakfast including cereal and milk, a snack during break and rice, dal, a green vegetable, roti and salad for lunch; egg, soy nuggets, banana and a seasonal fruit once a week (read more about the school and its achievements here).

Bronwyn, a charity worker from Australia who is living in India for more than 30 years, introduced me to the school and to Sherna Waida, the principal. I first went there a year ago to see the classroom they’ve build out of plastic bottles filled with sand (youtube video here). Somehow we’ve kept in touch.

When the idea of our ARTBOARD/SKATEBOARD project came up one of the options where to build the skatepark was Samarpan School. Unfortunately the land situation in Kishangarh is a bit tricky and many uncertainties would have been involved, so we decided not to build there. But it brought me back to Sherna and the needs of her school. High on Sherna’s priority list were laptops. One laptop per classroom would allow them to teach the kids in a modern and new way.

With the help of nextpractice, a company I freelance for in Germany, namely Andreas Greve and Peter Kruse, we could make Sherna’s dream come true. nextpractice provided six laptops for Samarpan! Thank you so much!

When I went back to Germany last week I packed the laptops into the biggest suitcase I had. 36 kg (!) – it was a real job to get them to the airport. As you can see the suitcase was almost bursting;-) At the Lufthansa check in a nice surprise was waiting for me. First of all they didn’t charge anything for the extra kg and on top of that they upgraded me and I could comfortably fly in the upper deck in their new 747-800. Nice!


I arrived early Monday morning in Delhi, it was 1 am when the captain announced that the temperature in Delhi is still 36 degree! Monday afternoon – during the heat of the day – I delivered the laptops to Sherna:

Sherna Waida, principal of Samarpan School, and one of the teachers storage the laptops in their computer room.

In this interview Sherna gives an overview of what Samarpan School is all about.

And to see more kids getting great results from Samarpan School we will try to get more books for their library …


… and we are planning to build at least a small ramp for skateboarding in their school yard!


And this story had a beautiful and surprising side effect: when I posted my fully packed suitcase on facebook and gave the glimpse of the story, Frank Roebers, CEO of Synaxon AG, contacted me and told me he had an idea how to support me;-) After a brief facebook chat I have 2000 Euro more in my pockets which help me to continue my work in incredible India. Thank you Frank!

He cold it a social media success story;-)
Indeed it is.

Posted in ARTBOARDS/SKATEBORADS, India | 1 Comment

The Gritty Height of Irony

I never thought that I would ever dream of seeing Bashar al Asad winning an election. But frankly speaking – today I do. For the sake of the Syrian people.

During my last visit to Syria in April 2014 I had two meetings which confronted me so badly with the gritty height of irony we are facing in Syria. It hurts. It makes me feel desperate and angry. What can WE the people achieve against this bulwark of power and money?

The first meeting was with Nourra, Bassel’s wife. Among many other things Bassel is a social activist. He has been detained 2 years ago. And Nourra, his brave and courageous wife is fighting for his release. No accusation. No trial. A political prisoner. I wrote about it earlier. The situation is a mess and it is getting worse and more unpredictable every day. Together with Bassel there are currently 30.000 (estimated number) political prisoners in Syria’s government prisons. The prisons seem to be not necessarily controlled by government, the prison security apparatus has become an institution of its own during the war. And arbitrariness is what we see. Hardly anyone of the detained is facing a trial, many of them disappear – and no one knows where. The number of requests sent to the officials is countless, relatives very often have no idea what has happened to their loved ones. Actually one need to admit that Nourra can be “happy” with the situation … Hard to imagine, but this is reality!

My second meeting was with a young student at Damascus University. Feras is his name. He attended a presentation of the Iranian delegation of our International Peace Pilgrimage to Syria. A group of scientists and artists – all very well-known in Iran. Here is Feras’ reaction:

So why were these two meetings so abounded with irony ?

Nourra and Feras, among other young Syrians, confirmed that in April 2011 people all over Syria went in the streets. Inspired by Tunisia and Egypt. Frustrated with Assad’s dictatorship, its lack of fundamental human rights such as freedom of speech and censorship. They’ve said maybe a few hundred went out in Damascus, but never ever thousands. And they’ve said, that their “revolution” has been stolen, stolen by foreign powers who have an interest in Syria and who’ve brought foreign fighters into Syria to overthrow Assad. An intervention as we’ve seen it in Irak or in Libya is still an option for the West.

Having said this, the irony become obvious:

  • Those young people who fought for the values the West used to stand for turned against their former ideal.
  • For most Syrians, including those who went out into the streets for a regime change, Assad is THE only one who can re-stabilize the country and protect it from foreign powers. He is stronger than ever.
  • The Syrian youth doesn’t see a near future WITHOUT Assad and they are convinced that he will use pretty ruthlessly the failures of the West against his own people. Meaning more censorship, less human rights … more military.
  • The Syrians have lost their nation. Their country is destroyed.
  • And the Syrians never accepted the SNC – heavily supported and dominated by the West and the Saudis – as their representatives.

So, what has been achieved in Syria?

Another destroyed country in the Middle East. Millions of refugees – the UN speaks about the biggest human desaster nowadays. In Syria more than anywhere else the dirty game of war, power and economic interests became transparent for the worldwide public. The opposition – supported by the West – got “out of control” and today with the weapons of the West they fight against the West. The fear that jihadist – trained by the US and UK – return into their home countries and attack their citizens is bigger than ever before. The number of fundamentalists is growing rapidly and the entire region is far from being peaceful. In Irak the war is escalating. Today many more people die on a daily basis than during the war. The government can’t control the country. Same is true for Libya. And Yemen – were silently a US drone war is going on. In Egypt a new general was sworn in as President – a Western and Gulf puppet who when dressed in his uniform always reminds me of Gaddafi . Sisi was elected by less than 50% of the Egyptians! Is he a people’s president? In all countries the economic situation is a mess and the youth has lost its hope.

If not this, than what is irony?


And here is a piece written by Rick Sterling, a founding member of Syrian Solidarity Movement, who joined our “International Peace Pilgrimage to Syria”: Why are They Afraid of the Syrian Elections?

This article was first published by COUNTERPUNCH, May 30, 2014

The Presidential Election in Syria takes place next Tuesday, June 3. With a revised 2012 Constitution, Syria is no longer a one party state and there are multiple candidates for office. Running against Bashar al Asad are former communist and legislator Maher al Hajjar and business person Hassan al Nouri.

The election has been vehemently opposed by the so called “Friends of Syria” (NATO members Turkey, Germany, France, UK, Italy, USA, plus the Gulf monarchies UAE, Qatar, Saudi Arabia plus Jordan and Egypt). Since 2011 the “Friends” have met periodically to coordinate funding, arming and training the rebels plus trying to promote and consolidate a credible outside political leadership. According to the pro opposition Syrian Observatory for Human Rights the result of this externally supported uprising has been over 62,000 dead Syrian soldiers and militia, plus another 80,836 dead civilians. Many of the civilians were killed by rebels. Just looking at the number of dead Syrian soldiers and security forces, can you imagine what would happen if 10% that number (6,000 soldiers and security) were killed in the USA?

Given the extent of the violence, the well publicized fanaticism of the most active rebels and evident difficulty to manage the political operatives who were supposed to be anointed “leaders”, one might wonder whey the USA and others persist in trying to force regime change in Syria.

But instead of viewing the multi-candidate election in Syria as a step forward, they are viewing it as a mortal threat. “Assad’s staged elections are a farce,” Kerry said after the so-called Friends of Syria meeting in London on Thursday May 15. “They’re an insult. They are a fraud on democracy, on the Syrian people and on the world,” he added.

France, Germany, Belgium and the Gulf States have all prohibited voting in the Syrian election. Syrian Embassies in the US and Canada have been forced to close, removing the chance for Syrians living in these countries to vote.

Why are Kerry and the “Friends” so upset and fearful of Syrian elections? If they are such a farce, then much of the public will not participate in them. If the vote is seen by the public as meaningless, then voter turnout will be very low such as in Egypt this week.

As to the issue of holding an election during a time of conflict, this was done right here in the USA. The 1864 election which re-elected Abraham Lincoln was held during the midst of the extremely bloody US civil war.

Another group afraid of the Syrian elections is the Syrian American Council (SAC). This well funded lobby group claims to represent Syrian Americans. They have launched a twitter and Facebook campaign decrying the ‘Blood Election’. They have professional marketing and public relations, paid staff and support from neo-con and zionist interventionists in Congress. Still, their real support across the country seems thin. Last August and September 2013, they were promoting a US attack on Syria. They were not concerned with the massive bloodshed that would have resulted from that. Ironically they are decrying blood now when Syria holds a peaceful election.

In sharp contrast with SAC, alternative organizations such as Arab Americans for Syria (AA4Syria) and Syrian American Forum (SAF) are speaking with growing strength against our US tax dollars being used to destroy their homeland. As a measure of the depth of feelings, over 25 members of AA4Syria are flying to Beirut then traveling by land to Syria to vote in next Tuesday’s election. The same thing is happening in other countries which have prevented Syrians from casting a vote. Syrians who live in the Gulf are traveling all the way to Syria to vote as a sign of their commitment.

The reason is that many Syrians, both inside and outside the country, see voting in this election as a sign of support for their homeland at this difficult time.

Voting by Syrians living abroad has already begun, with voting yesterday May 28 in Lebanon, Jordan and a few other countries. The turnout in Beirut was massive, with tens of thousands of people marching, chanting and singing through the avenue and along the highway to the Syrian Embassy compound east of the city center. Look at the video and judge for yourself whether these people are being “forced” to vote or cheer for Bashar al Asad.

The voting in Beirut has been extended due to the huge turnout. This is in ironic contrast with Egypt where the government is desperately extending the voting hours and days, trying to boost the voting turnout.

If recent history is a guide, there may be some kind of spectacular media event or atrocity in the coming days. The Syrian opposition and their handlers have executed PR stunts at critical times. If it happens here, the purpose will be to distract from the strong Syrian participation in the election and to attempt to renew the branding of Asad as “brutal dictator”.

But the branding is wearing thin, those who are most affected by the crisis know the truth and even those who have been influenced by the immense propaganda may be starting to wonder: Was it ever a genuine “Syrian revolution”? What kind of “revolution” is financed by corrupt monarchies and former colonial powers? Is the “brutal dictator” really as bad as they say? The scenes of thousands of Syrians waving his poster, chanting his name and youth expressing love for him are not what they wish us to see.

Next week we can look at the videos, photos and stories from Syria. Hopefully there will be some reasonably unbiased reports. John Kerry and other “Friends of Syria” did not want it to happen, and there may still be violence and bumps on the journey, but the election in Syria is going ahead. Let’s see what Kerry and company are afraid of.

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Sandstorm in Delhi, May 30, 2014

Last few days we’ve had a horrible sandstorm in Dehli coming in from Rajasthan … the entire day you couldn’t see the sky and then in the afternoon the wind began to catch up. Within minutes you could hardly see anything. 10 minutes later rain came and washed all the dust down.

9 people died during the storm …

Seen from Hauz Khas Village

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Iran – The Revolution is alive! Is it really?

These days I received an email from Amir Massoumi (see pict below), a human rights activist based in Montreal, who was traveling with us on our “Peace Pilgrimage to Syria” a few weeks ago. He is Iranian … he has fled his country in 1984 and came back only once so far … I’ve learnt a lot from him about Iran, the Shah and Khomeini’s return during our travels. Here is what he has shared with us:

Maireead Amir plérinage Paix Avril 2014 Syrie
Amir with Maired Macguire at the Tehran Peace Museum

“I was greatly surprised by the unexpected positives changes that I saw in my country. I was amazed by the inspiring youth and all that energy and dynamism. This makes me believe that the great Revolution of our generation and its aims: ‘’independence, freedom and human dignity’’, are not dead. It proves that the Revolution is still alive and running, despite of all the attempts to divert it from its path and objectives, after all these repressions, betrayed hopes, sacrifices and destroyed lives, despite of all violence and crimes committed against it and against the Iranian people by the illegitimate clerical establishment and its archaic ideology who took power aftermath of the initial and primary victories against the monarchic regime …. I’m so proud!

This has been said, the issues of the respect of the human dignity and rights in general, women rights and minorities in particular, social justice, equality and freedom are still remaining central and dramatic in this country. The generations of millions of men, women, especially youths, have paid heavily by their lives for a minimum respect for their dignity and freedom, and the sacrifice goes on…. As I said before to you, in this country, apparently ‘’the freedom of expression and choices exist’’, but the freedom of ‘’after’’ expression and choices, no! This is not a funny rhetoric. It’s an unbearable reality of everyday life! We must live in this country, as millions do and for a while, under this suffocating atmosphere, to understand this. To feel it!

This schizophrenic duality, this institutionalized hypocrisy of Iranian regime; generally very progressive in foreign policies but very repressive, reactionary, autocratic and violent in its internal practices, with unimaginable inhuman and paternalistic contempt toward its own people, must stop! They can’t continually pretend to be part of the ‘’axis of resistance’’ again imperialism and Zionism but doing the same things, acting with the same ‘’logic’’ toward their own people. Exactly on the same way that their ‘’opponents’’ in opposite ‘’axis’’ are dong to other peoples and nations.

At the same time, we must remain vigilant. In the ‘’real world’’, the human rights issue is highly instrumentalized, particularly by the must criminals of this world. As you know better than me, the ‘’human rights’’ is now becoming the instrument of war, justification for aggression. And we know that Iran is in sight, since longtime ego. Therefore, while we are working for peace and pushing for resolution, by peaceful and diplomatic means, of all differences between Iran and other countries, while we are opposing strongly to any aggression and military intervention against Iran and Iranian people, we must support, at the same time, the Iranian people’s aspirations, resistance and struggle for their rights, for a free and better life, for a better future.”

I myself experienced Iran again “en passant”.
It was my 7th visit.
First time all on my own – at least for the first days.
And my feelings, impressions and experiences were not always in line with Amir’s words.

IMG_7074Mountains north of Tehran, just a 20 minute drive from the center of the city

I crossed the border into Iran at Taftan/Zehedan, leaving behind the wilderness and beauty of Balochistan, Pakistan. The border of which the German Consul in Frankfurt told me: “I am not sure if this border is under government control!” I wrote him in an e-mail later, that it isn’t.

I was still in Balochistan, the Iranian part of it.

Spending the last (cash) money I had, I bought a bus ticket and went straight to Mashad, Iran’s holiest (the eighth Imam of Shia Muslims – Iman Reza – was martyred here and so his shrine was placed there) and the second largest city of the country (2.8 million).

I arrived at one of Mashad’s so clean and opulent hotels – build for the Arab pilgrims coming from Saudi Arabia, Kuweit, Bahrain … and for Iranians who live abroad in exile. I probably looked a bit “inappropriate” after having spent 4 days with the Balouch tribals in their villages and traveling with them to the Iranian border. When I told them at the reception that I didn’t had have any cash on me and that I need to figure out how to receive some, I doubted that they would ever check me in. But they did! Unheard of in the West.

Because Iran is banned from the international finance circus you can’t get any money with your credit card and you can’t pay with it. So carrying cash around is your only option. And my cash was gone. I ran out of it because I got stuck for more than a week in Quetta, capital of Balochistan Pakistan. The only place where you could stay was the very nice Serena Hotel – but it had its price. And none of Quetta ATM machines was working … So here I was. Cash-less. But the very friendly and open-minded staff trusted me.

After a long refreshing shower I went online to connect with my future host in Tehran. I was surprised by the speed of the internet – and I was surprised how quickly the Iranian government could track my VPN and shut it down (I wasn’t using TOR). So I played the cat and mouse game … And I was enjoying it. Most of the VPNs are blocked for download in Iran … Much worse than in Pakistan, where only Youtube and a few other sides are blocked, but VPNs are available. But nevertheless all young Iranians are connected via SKYPE, Twitter and Facebook … So I found Roohulla, my host, on SKYPE and told him my situation … He laughed and said that in the afternoon a friend of his would come by and pay my hotel bill and provide me with some cash. I’ve never met him before, we’ve only SKYPED so far … but there he was willing to borrow me 350 USD. Unusual I thought. For the second time. In the afternoon his friend came by, we’ve had a cup of tea and everything was set. Networking at its best. Lucky me.

After a long sleep and another shower I went off to explore Iman Reza’s shrine, Iran’s holliest place.

Inside the shrine

It was a 20 minute walk from the hotel along the Emam Reza St, Mashad’s promenade. Early spring, sunny skies, slightly fresh air and many people in the streets. I was ready to compromise and wear “my” chador – or at least I was trying to wear it – but wearing it properly does take some practice. So walking down the street I was a bit struggling with this long shawl, but I thought I’d managed O.K. But surprise, surprise!
I wasn’t even close to the inner heart of the shrine when an old woman approached me and without saying a word, she put her hands into my face and was trying to tighten my chador and put my hair underneath. I asked her to stop. But she didn’t. Again she tried. Again I said no. The third time I caught her hands and put them down. This should stuck with me during my entire stay. For most of the Iranians it wasn’t enough to show respect and trying to wear the chador as best as one could – no, there was this constant pressure and demand from all sides to wear it right. One-sided respect – I felt. And I didn’t like it.

From Mashad I took an overnight bus to Tehran – packed with young Iranians returning back to the capital after having visited their families back home for the New Year celebrations. I was surrounded by a bunch of young women in the bus, their English was as good as my Persian. Therefore our conversation wasn’t very “fluent”, but it was nonetheless interesting. We managed and we’ve had fun. I found out that all of them were studying. With the permission of their father or their eldest brother they were allowed to do so. It felt very normal for them to ask for permission, I assume they even don’t have the idea NOT to ask. They shared their food and water with me and explained every village/city we were passing by. They were very proud of their country and happy to meet a foreigner.

Two hours before the official program of the Peace Pilgrimage to Syria started, I arrived at the hotel and met with all the other participants. 4200 km all the way from Delhi land over! What a trip so far!

Before I continue with my travel report, let me add some remarks to Amir’s observations. Yes, it is true that among the Iranian youth there is a good spirit … just like we can see in Europe, the US and other parts of the world. The internet has brought the world together and there are many common causes – especially among the young people. No matter if social media tools are blocked or not. They share it with their own unique spirit and the Web, including mobile, brings it all beautifully together – using its own dynamics. The emerging patterns we see embrace values such as participation, transparency, openness, equality, integrity, (social) responsibility and reputation. In the different countries they may come with a different interpretation and understanding … but the overall direction is the same. This is what makes governments and political leaders so nervous.

I didn’t had the feeling that the majority of the Iranian youth feels deeply suppressed by their government or their religious leaders. They might want to have some things differently, but I’ve had the feeling they know their time will come. Having had the green revolution a few years ago and having learnt from the lost “Arab Spring” – the Iranian youth is just about to figure out their way for “human rights” and a separation of politics and government. They have a playground and they are stretching the boundaries. The winds of change have arrived and the Iranian government is slowly moving. Multiple disruption is evident. The Iranian youth is intelligent, they do have money to a certain extend – and they clearly see and understand the failure of the West. And going along with it their chances. They are proud. They are connected and they know about their situation. They won’t start another revolution. No.

“Our” Iranian delegation at Damascus University

What I wish to see and this is what I’ve heard from the young people I’ve spoken to, is that Iran uses its intelligentsia wisely – just like Khamenei did when he gave “power” to Rouhani, who wasn’t his most preferred candidate. Iran should use its current (international) up winds – they should (and I think they will) encourage their youth and find a peaceful balance. They should not dominate their local allies. They should protect and help Syria WITHOUT asking “What is in it for me?”. They should proudly negotiate with the West but should NOT fall under western influence. They should extend their English news channel Press TV and cherish freedom of press and speech. They should rather establish tight strings to BRICS than to the Atlanticists. They should strengthen their own Iranian way. They should foster (worldwide) pluralism which is so desperately needed and become another “counterpart” in the most positive way to the US.

And I see the Iranian chances are good. The West needs Iran – just think about Afghanistan, Pakistan, Irak … And the Iranian understand this much better than any Westerner does the other way round.

Remarks – after I received Amir’s comment (see below):
If what we see today in Iran are the “effects” of the 1979 Revolution – as Amir has written – then wonderful! I cannot judge this … Until I first traveled to Iran seven years ago I only knew that in 1979 the Shah had fled the country and Khomenei returned and brought back Shia Islam … I have and I still have little knowledge about Iran’s youngest history. But what AMit is saying would proof once again that change can’t happen over night, it takes generations.

No wonder Amir was smiling all day long during our trip;-)

And to see the change happening in a peaceful way – even if it might take longer – is even better! We don’t know yet how long it will take to see peace again in Aghanistan, Irak, Libya, Egypt, Yemen, Sudan, Syria … All countries where the West interfered and still is interfering – and which are rather in a state of decomposition than in boom conditions.

Posted in thoughts, travels | 2 Comments

Campaign: Free Bassel

I added the following comment to Hisham’s post (global voices) regarding


My comment:

Dear Hisham,

thank you for your blogpost.
I believe it will bring a smile on Bassel’s and Noura’s faces.

I just came back from Syria and I met Noura, Bassel’s wife and we’ve had a long conversation. Noura is a very brave, warm and intelligent woman. Bassel can be very proud of her. They see each other twice a week. The Syrian government has lifted her travel ban – but she will stay in Syria and take care of Bassel and many other political prisoners for whom she volunteers. Bassel himself seems to be in OK condition regarding his physical and mental health. For now.

Together with Bassel there are currently 30.000 (estimated number) political prisoners in Syria’s government prisons. The prisons seem to be not necessarily controlled by government, the prison security apparatus has become an institution of its own during the war. And arbitrariness is what we see. Hardly anyone of the detained is facing a trial, many of them disappear – and no one knows where. The number of requests sent to the officials is countless, relatives very often have no idea what has happened to their loved ones.

It is very, very difficult to identify those in this system who need to be addressed in order to help and in order to achieve something. This is hard and above all long lasting work. And you never know what the outcome will be. But this is THE crucial point. Without them nothing will be achieved.

It can’t be done over night. And it can’t be done with campaigns who don’t reach into this system. And just imagine if they would be heard within this security system – what would be the effect? Frankly speaking – it’s hard to imagine that the effect will be a positive one for the specific person. Unfortunately.

So what can we really do ?
What will have a positive impact on Bassel’s situation?

We were discussing this on a panel at re:publicca14 where two Bassel campaigners from San Francisco presented Bassel’s case. And I’d like to take the chance here with this audience to discuss our options … and I hope you will allow this.

The most promising option from our discussion was to create a win-win-situation for all sides involved: the government, the security people, the prisoner. Imagine a delegation of “high Western officials” would travel to Syria handing over a list of prisoners’ names to government / security officials. If the prisoners would be released everyone would become GOOD PRESS … positive media awareness. Could be one way … still the question remains how to identify those who are really controlling the prison.

Any ideas, comments, suggestions are welcome … !
Please start this discussion and keep up your great work. It is essential.



Additional remark: What came into my mind after I posted the comment (which is waiting for moderation), that if one would look deeper into the process of reconciliation in Homs, Syria, one could learn about strategies how to approach this complex issue, how to set up a network which could launch an effort.

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