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Alex Rowell

The UAE deported this Arab Spring activist. Watch his speech today at the Oslo Freedom Forum

Iyad El-Baghdadi was arrested and kicked out of the UAE without any explanation

Palestinian Arab Spring activist Iyad El-Baghdadi

It wasn’t long after Iyad El-Baghdadi’s last tweet, on 30 April, that I realized something had to be wrong. This was Iyad, after all, a man who (literally) averaged over 35 tweets a day – and could comfortably double that figure when he got on a roll, or when some new dictator’s speech or sectarian massacre sent him into a fury. For him not to have tweeted at all for several weeks was, frankly, alarming. I wondered at first if he was observing a 40-day silence in mourning of the tragic death of Bassem Sabry, the Egyptian writer and friend of his who passed away the day before. But that milestone came and went without result. I feared he too had come into some misfortune, and asked on Twitter if anyone knew anything. No one did, but several people re-tweeted the question, suggesting many of us had the same concerns.

 

This morning I learned the grim answer. The very next day after his last tweet, 1 May, Iyad was arrested, imprisoned, and eventually deported from the UAE, where he had lived his whole life (and where I had the privilege of meeting him one exhilarating evening in January 2012). Being Palestinian, he naturally had no power to appeal the order, for which no explanation or criminal charge was ever provided (“Try and remember if you said anything that might cause something like this,” one official helpfully suggested). He was sent to Malaysia, without his seven-months-pregnant wife, who had to give birth to his son, Ismail, in his absence. I strongly urge everyone to read the full story of his unpardonable mistreatment here.

 

Equally, I urge everyone to respond to the UAE’s thuggish efforts to muffle Iyad by watching every minute of the very fine speech he gave earlier today at the Oslo Freedom Forum (see video, starting 1:16:40). At a time when it’s become politically acceptable to say the West should support not only the Egyptian dictatorship but its monstrous Syrian counterpart; when the collective spirits of the Arab world have never seemed lower, and the optimism of just three years ago has never felt so anachronistic, Iyad’s voice of sanity is needed today more than ever.

 

It’s good to have you back, ustaz

Baghdadi was deported in May from the UAE, where he had lived his entire life (Source: The Intercept)

I urge everyone to respond to the UAE’s thuggish efforts to muffle Iyad by watching every minute of the very fine speech he gave earlier today at the Oslo Freedom Forum"