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IPFS News Link • Whistleblowers

Inside the Parisian Cafe for Subversives and Whistleblowers

•, Paul-Louis Godier

Taha Siddiqui is a man who wears many hats and has lived many lives. After a career as an investigative journalist in Pakistan, Siddiqui survived a kidnapping and an assassination attempt. In 2018, he decided to move to Paris with his wife to rebuild far away from home. Cut off from his regular sources and the ability to do fieldwork, he found himself looking for a new career.

In 2020, Siddiqui launched the Dissident Club, a modern-day "café littéraire" reminiscent of the gathering spots where bright minds would exchange ideas in the 1800s. "In Paris, there are many bars with cultural, social, and political activities," Siddiqui tells VICE. "As a political refugee, a journalist in exile and a dissident, I wanted to bring together people like me under one roof."

Today, Siddiqui is both the café's manager and its bartender. He organises events to highlight the work of journalists, activists and artists who had to leave their home country under threats of persecution, just like him. Discussions, debates, conferences, and exhibitions help him create a safe space for dissidents from all over the world, as well as enlightening and educating customers at the bar.

In 2022 alone, 50 different countries were represented at the Dissident Club. Some of their home countries are mapped onto a dartboard, where journalists and activists have pinned photos of their often undemocratic leaders. (I'll refrain from disclosing the identity of the figure on the 20 point slot.)

"I have a project on transnational repression where we talk about the fact that, even in exile, you can still be targeted, intimidated and harassed," Siddiqui says. "What I want to convey to people with this project is that when you go into exile, you don't simply start a new life and everything is different. You continue living your previous life – in greater safety, yes, but never in total safety. I want to raise awareness about this."

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