Tag Archives: Peace

Telecomix: DIY Drones for Peace – Virtual Reporting

5 Jun

This past Saturday at the Salon des Solidarités in Paris, a meeting of ‘Hackers and NGOs‘ took place. There, between a Médecin du Monde stand and a stall selling fair trade jewellery, attendees gathered around a strange humming machine. A miniature drone, straight from Brittany in north-west France, where a handful of members of the hacktivist collective Telecomix have been hard at work on its development. But this particular drone has not been designed to roam in the clear French skies, but rather to assist Syrians in their fight against Bashar al-Assad’s dictatorship.

The initiative was launched by KheOps, a nickname behind which a young man with long blond hair operates. KheOps had been shocked this winter by the deaths of the journalists Marie Colvin and Rémi Ochlik.

It’s better to lose a drone than a journalist.

In the do-ocracatic realm so dear to hackers, intentions are of little significance; only concrete actions count. So for the past several weeks KheOps, aided by other self-described Telecomix “agents”, has set out to construct a customised surveillance machine.

With this project, Telecomix are adding another brick to the solidaristic edifice of 1’s and 0’s they began constructing during the Arab revolutions. In the words of Tomato, a German agent, the informal collective “is an idea. The idea of free communication. Any type of communication“. InTunisiaEgypt and  Syria, again and again the group has helped to eductate people in how use the Internet safely. With Syria this week appearing to have launched a new crackdown1, and as the conflict there continues to drag on, these agents are not about to flee the battle.

Documenting the project

The drone must be able to collect and disseminate information, while evading a sniper ambush. Adhering to these specification was an imperative therefore, as KheOps explained.

The person should take the least risk possible. It must be able to be piloted manually, by sight, via a camera.

The camera is equipped with a transmitter, allowing images to be broadcast live within a theoretical radius of several kilometres. The small working group has inspired many projects under development in recent months, in the same spirit of sousveillance, such as the Occupy Wall Street demonstrators’ Occucopter. Construction is not a question of reinventing the wheel, as the hacktivists explain. “We stuck the bitsand pieces of the drone’s brain together with duct tape,” said Okhin, a skinny fast-talking agent. “The  controller, for example, already exists, and it’s then a matter of patching2 it based on our experience.

In truth, Saturday’s demonstration was something of a disappointment. “It’s not working yet, it worked ok yesterday,” KheOps apologised. “We don’t know (how it will work), we learn as we go.” The goal is to finish the project by late June. The most important step is to provide clear documentation, so that the drone can be easily reproduced. That fact also has another, more unfortunate consequence, of which they are extremely conscious: the drone could also be used for repressive purposes. Moving the equipment remain an unresolved problem; drones and cameras are not a habitual sight in Syria. It’s there that the links Telecomix has forged with a number of NGO’s may prove useful, as agent Ksa explained.

We’re going to get them back in using NGO networks, via Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan. We don’t necessarily need the NGO’s, but it’s better.

While those unfamiliar with the hacker world may find it surprising, the link with NGO’s in conflict zones makes sense. The imperative of DIY; freedom of communication as a sacred principle; the need to protect one’s identity in certain circumstances; an acute awareness of the fragility of technical infrastructure, and thus resilience: all are shared foundational values of the hacker and the NGO activist. Hackers have a long tradition of active engagement. The Hacktivismo collective, for example, an offshoot of the legendary Cult of the Dead Cow, who first coined the term hacktivism back in 1996. “Some wear two hats, hacker and NGO,” noted one of the agents.

We have already worked with RSF3,” KheOps recalled. “We know them, we get along well.” A collaboration with the International Federation of Human Rights (FIDH) was organised “as soon as Ben Ali fled, when Telecomix began supporting organisations,” said Nicolas Diaz, webmaster and head of IT for the FIDH. “After assessing needs, we set up a digital safe to store the archives.” With his long hair rivalling that of KheOps or Okhin, Diaz does not look out of place, and is in familiar territory. “We have developed encrypted communication tools with members of Ubuntu and Telecomix,” he explained. Sharp, hyper-reactive, a little protective of their time, the hacktivists sometimes need a little “level-headedness, in the face of technical requirements,” he suggested.

This strong relationship has already resulted in the project Syrian Stories, launched in March. The platform draws together a selection of videos and puts them in context, drawing on documents from the Telecomix Broadcast System (TBS), a database posted online at the same time. The whole project forms a sort of timeline of memorial, a much more polished and produced version of the quite raw (in every sense) material from the TBS. And later, insha’Allah, these images can be used as evidence in any trial.

The Pony Pirate Box

They also plan to adapt the concept of the Pirate Box, itself originally a hack. The initial Pirate Box was an open source tool as big as a lunch box that emits a wi-fi signal and allows the user to share files with anyone, without the need to reveal their identity. It offered an invitation to rediscover the joys of sharing culture and the culture of sharing. Under the guise of music sharing, the on-the-ground version of the tool could be used to communicate within a critical perimeter, a bombed building for example. The Pirate Pony Box, as they’ve humorously baptised their version, is equipped with an anonymised chat module. Inexpensive and powered by solar panels, several Pirate Boxes could form a mini-network grid, which would pass information from relay to relay.

Lulz and honour

In just one year, Telecomix has acquired an impressive notoriety that its agents could never have anticipated. “Hype”, encouraged by an aura of technical wizardry, has led to the hacktivists being solicited from all sides. “We can’t help everyone,” interjected Okhin. “NGO’s should not depend on hackers but be autonomous. We post the documentation online, use it! Anyway, it would be bad for our ego if we became James Bond.”

With lulz in their DNA, we can likely trust these young men in baggy pants and sneakers to avoid that fate. While aware of the grave seriousness of current events, they retain a sense of fun in their approach. The taste for the technical challenge is inherent in hackers. A philosophy summarised in a phrase, delivered amid a burst of laughter by a highly caffeinated Okhin.

The only extraordinary thing we do is not sleeping. If it pissed us off to save the world, we wouldn’t do it.

Text: Sabine Blanc / Images: Ophelia Noor


Gene Sharp’s 198 Methods of Nonviolent Action

5 Feb

en: Peace dove icon. es: Icono de la paloma de...


  1. Public speeches
  2. Letters of opposition or support
  3. Declarations by organizations and institutions
  4. Signed public declarations
  5. Declarations of indictment and intention
  6. Group or mass petitions


  1. Slogans, caricatures, and symbols
  2. Banners, posters, and displayed communications
  3. Leaflets, pamphlets, and books
  4. Newspapers and journals
  5. Records, radio, and television
  6. Skywriting and earthwriting


  1. Deputations
  2. Mock awards
  3. Group lobbying
  4. Picketing
  5. Mock elections


  1. Displays of flags and symbolic colours
  2. Wearing of symbols
  3. Prayer and worship
  4. Delivering symbolic objects
  5. Protest disrobings
  6. Destruction of own property
  7. Symbolic lights
  8. Displays of portraits
  9. Paint as protest
  10. New signs and names
  11. Symbolic sounds
  12. Symbolic reclamations
  13. Rude gestures


  1. “Haunting” officials
  2. Taunting officials
  3. Fraternization
  4. Vigils


  1. Humourous skits and pranks
  2. Performances of plays and music
  3. Singing


  1. Marches
  2. Parades
  3. Religious processions
  4. Pilgrimages
  5. Motorcades


  1. Political mourning
  2. Mock funerals
  3. Demonstrative funerals
  4. Homage at burial places


  1. Assemblies of protest or support
  2. Protest meetings
  3. Camouflaged meetings of protest
  4. Teach-ins


  1. Walk-outs
  2. Silence
  3. Renouncing honours
  4. Turning one’s back



  1. Social boycott
  2. Selective social boycott
  3. Lysistratic nonaction
  4. Excommunication
  5. Interdict


  1. Suspension of social and sports activities
  2. Boycott of social affairs
  3. Student strike
  4. Social disobedience
  5. Withdrawal from social institutions


  1. Stay-at-home
  2. Total personal noncooperation
  3. “Flight” of workers
  4. Sanctuary
  5. Collective disappearance
  6. Protest emigration (hijrat)



  1. Consumers’ boycott
  2. Nonconsumption of boycotted goods
  3. Policy of austerity
  4. Rent withholding
  5. Refusal to rent
  6. National consumers’ boycott
  7. International consumers’ boycott


  1. Workers’ boycott
  2. Producers’ boycott


  1. Suppliers’ and handlers’ boycott


  1. Traders’ boycott
  2. Refusal to let or sell property
  3. Lockout
  4. Refusal of industrial assistance
  5. Merchants’ “general strike”


  1. Withdrawal of bank deposits
  2. Refusal to pay fees, dues, and assessments
  3. Refusal to pay debts or interest
  4. Severance of funds and credit
  5. Revenue refusal
  6. Refusal of a government’s money


  1. Domestic embargo
  2. Blacklisting of traders
  3. International sellers’ embargo
  4. International buyers’ embargo
  5. International trade embargo



  1. Protest strike
  2. Quickie walkout (lightning strike)


  1. Peasant strike
  2. Farm workers’ strike


  1. Refusal of impressed labour
  2. Prisoners’ strike
  3. Craft strike
  4. Professional strike


  1. Establishment strike
  2. Industry strike
  3. Sympathy strike


  1. Detailed strike
  2. Bumper strike
  3. Slowdown strike
  4. Working-to-rule strike
  5. Reporting “sick” (sick-in)
  6. Strike by resignation
  7. Limited strike
  8. Selective strike


  1. Generalised strike
  2. General strike


  1. Hartal
  2. Economic shutdown



  1. Withholding or withdrawal of allegiance
  2. Refusal of public support
  3. Literature and speeches advocating resistance


  1. Boycott of legislative bodies
  2. Boycott of elections
  3. Boycott of government employment and positions
  4. Boycott of government departments, agencies, and other bodies
  5. Withdrawal from governmental educational institutions
  6. Boycott of government-supported institutions
  7. Refusal of assistance to enforcement agents
  8. Removal of own signs and placemarks
  9. Refusal to accept appointed officials
  10. Refusal to dissolve existing institutions


  1. Reluctant and slow compliance
  2. Nonobedience in absence of direct supervision
  3. Popular nonobedience
  4. Disguised disobedience
  5. Refusal of an assemblage or meeting to disperse
  6. Sitdown
  7. Noncooperation with conscription and deportation
  8. Hiding, escape, and false identities
  9. Civil disobedience of “illegitimate” laws


  1. Selective refusal of assistance by government aides
  2. Blocking of lines of command and information
  3. Stalling and obstruction
  4. General administrative noncooperation
  5. Judicial noncooperation
  6. Deliberate inefficiency and selective noncooperation by enforcement agents
  7. Mutiny


  1. Quasi-legal evasions and delays
  2. Noncooperation by constituent governmental units


  1. Changes in diplomatic and other representation
  2. Delay and cancellation of diplomatic events
  3. Withholding of diplomatic recognition
  4. Severance of diplomatic relations
  5. Withdrawal from international organisations
  6. Refusal of membership in international bodies
  7. Expulsion from international organisations



  1. Self-exposure to the elements
  2. The fast
    1. Fast of moral pressure
    2. Hunger strike
    3. Satyagrahic fast
  3. Reverse trial
  4. Nonviolent harassment


  1. Sit-in
  2. Stand-in
  3. Ride-in
  4. Wade-in
  5. Mill-in
  6. Pray-in
  7. Nonviolent raids
  8. Nonviolent air raids
  9. Nonviolent invasion
  10. Nonviolent interjection
  11. Nonviolent obstruction
  12. Nonviolent occupation


  1. Establishing new social patterns
  2. Overloading of facilities
  3. Stall-in
  4. Speak-in
  5. Guerrilla theatre
  6. Alternative social institutions
  7. Alternative communication system


  1. Reverse strike
  2. Stay-in strike
  3. Nonviolent land seizure
  4. Defiance of blockades
  5. Politically motivated counterfeiting
  6. Preclusive purchasing
  7. Seizure of assets
  8. Dumping
  9. Selective patronage
  10. Alternative markets
  11. Alternative transportation systems
  12. Alternative economic institutions


  1. Overloading of administrative systems
  2. Disclosing identities of secret agents
  3. Seeking imprisonment
  4. Civil disobedience of “neutral” laws
  5. Work-on without collaboration
  6. Dual sovereignty and parallel government​​​​​

Link to the Albert Einstein Institution for more of Gene Sharp’s work

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