Exiled Palestinian democracy activist on Saudi Arabia's bid to silence dissidents

Iyad el-Baghdadi is a Palestinian pro-democracy activist who lives in exile in Norway. Earlier this month, he was placed under the protection of the Norwegian security services after a CIA tip-off that he was under threat from Saudi Arabia. He spoke to FRANCE 24's Marc Perelman about his situation and the wider threat facing critics of Riyadh.


In an interview with FRANCE 24, Arab pro-democracy activist Iyad el-Baghdadi accused Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman of being behind an ongoing campaign to "go after dissidents", such as Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, who was murdered in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul in October 2018.

The Saudi crown prince "took this very powerful tool of freedom of expression and turned it from a tool of liberation into a tool of repression," the exiled activist told FRANCE 24.

This Saudi bid to silence critics particularly targets those who are active and influential on social networks such as Twitter, Baghdadi said. "Jamal [Khashoggi] was himself a very important Twitter influencer," he explained.

>> On France24.com: Watch our interview with Khashoggi’s fiancée Hatice Cengiz

The human rights activist urged Western countries, especially the Trump administration, to hold Mohammed bin Salman to account instead of "enabling" him.

Finally, Baghdadi vowed to continue his activism despite the threats and pointed out that the truly courageous advocates were those living in repressive Arab regimes.

"This is an intergenerational struggle and the countries of the free world need to decide which side of history they want to stand on," he concluded.

Produced by Narimène Laouadi and Morgane Minair.

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