Omar Abdulaziz says “it could have happened” to him.
The Saudi dissident knows he came close to the fate that befell Jamal Khashoggi, the Saudi journalist who was murdered inside his country’s Istanbul consulate in October.
Months earlier, two Saudi government agents came to Montreal, the Canadian city Abdulaziz has called home for almost a decade, to convince him to return to the Gulf kingdom.
“They said, ‘We have a message from MBS,’” said the Saudi activist and online commentator, referring to the country’s powerful leader, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
In a busy hotel restaurant in downtown Montreal this month, the 27-year-old maintained his resolve as he recounted his interactions with the Saudi state agents, describing their conversations as though they were as normal as ordering the latte in front of him.
In an interview with Middle East Eye, he said the men told him they were working for Saud al-Qahtani, one of the crown prince’s top advisers, who has since been accused of orchestrating Khashoggi’s brutal killing.
Earlier this year, global management consulting firm McKinsey & Company prepared a report that outlined how some of the kingdom’s policies were viewed by the public.
The report, whose “primary audience” the firm said was internal, singled out three social media accounts “who drove often negative conversations on Twitter”.
One of those accounts belonged to Abdulaziz, who has racked up 350,000 followers on Twitter alone.
“They didn’t say arrest him or kill [them], but what do you think [will happen] when you are giving such a thing to an authoritarian regime?” Abdulaziz said. [Continue reading…]