Extract from an original 2013 article by Simone Cicero http://www.open-electronics.org/the-story-behind-atadiat-bringing-open-source-hardware-to-syria/
Just few weeks ago, I’ve been informed for the first time about the existence of an Open Source Hardware Startup called Atadiat, operating in Syria. I stumbled upon the news since a friend shared a tweet mentioning the Shamduino board (an Arduino inspired board) and the fact that the board was basically made out of locally sourced materials. I basically reacted enthusiastically since – as you probably know if you’ve read some of the opeds here on the OPen Electronics blog – I’m strongly interested also in the impacts that open source hardware must and could have towards manufacturing and relocalization of productions also in terms of materials and supply chain in general.
I was so curious about the approach that, when I received an email by Yahya Tawil, founder of Atadiat, I was enthusiastic to know more. This conversation opened up my eyes on the complex situation that these guys live in their home country that, as Yahya effectively told me, is in a “war and unstable situation”. To tell this amazing story of people that, despite incredible difficulties, still follow their North Star of advocating for an inclusive hardware community, based on open source and access to knowledge, I decided to write down this interview, asking Yahya to tell us more about their situation, experience and ideas.
We often forget what’s the role of Open Source, is that of making innovation possible without enormous amounts of capital, is that of allowing us to build on top of each other intuitions, is that of giving society new tools to improve itself behind money and competition. At the end of the day, Open Source Hardware is about people and freedom of creation.
Building the community in Syria and the Arab world
First of all, I wanted to ask Yayha what was his experience of building a community around Open Source Hardware Makers and Collaboration in the Arab World.
“Well, everything started two years ago, more or less, when we started to learn and publish open source hardware and the Arduino culture in our community. I was part in the process of founding communities in Syria, and in the whole Arab world, ok likeminded persons interested in Open Hardware, DIY, digital personal fabrication and hacking. One of these communities is fablogia, which is a Syrian sub-community of a bigger one called wikilogia. The second community is called OHDIY (Open Hardware and DIY Group) which, basically, consists of an arabic facebook page with more than one thousands fans and facebook group with almost two thousands members which gathers makers and hackers from the whole arab world. One of OHDIY’s internet event was the translation of upverter guide. I’ve organized lot’s of other activities with great people from the region: a lot of Arduino meetups and related workshops (on CadSoft Eagle or plain electronics for example) and I gave lectures about open hardware and hardware entrepreneurship.”
Personally, I wasn’t expecting such a mature community in the Arab countries, maybe it’s my fault, but it has been a really good surprise (considering that I’m also in charge of helping the OSHWA building international branches).
Despite this, the situation in Syria is not easy at all, as Yayha told me –
“We faced a lot of difficulties especially because we are in a war and revolutionary situations, and we couldn’t bring Arduinos and other stuff from outside Syria. That’s when we tried to make our local circuits.” – so it was not about responsible manufacturing, but more a response limits to trading imposed by the situation – “within a year, my friend Anas (co-founder at atadiat) eventually created a prototype of a locally designed Arduino compatible board with a usb-serial converter as we don’t have access to machines that could print the very same Arduino PCB, for example we don’t access to machines to create Vias on PCBs“