Dissident Club: Chronicle Of A Pakistani Journalist Exiled In France

Dissident Club: Chronicle Of A Pakistani Journalist Exiled In France
In 2018, after being the victim of a kidnapping and assassination attempt in Pakistan, his home country, investigative journalist Taha Siddiqui found refuge in France. Through this graphic novel, with the help of cartoonist Hubert Maury (former French diplomat in Pakistan), he looks back on his youth, his career and his fight for freedom of the press.

When Taha's parents left Pakistan for Saudi Arabia, it was in the hope of a better life. In the holy land of Makkah, we discover that the daily life of young Taha is governed by a rigorous Islam and then his father becomes further radicalized, making things tougher for him. Coloring Batman, Superman or Western characters is no more allowed as they spread profanity according to his father’s interpretation of Islam. From now on, Taha’s superheroes are religious leaders!

We witness the middle of the Gulf War, when the religious morality in Saudi Arabia police is shown cracking down and forbidding street football if it is time to pray. In the year 2000, Taha finds a way out, even if temporarily…

His family moves back to Pakistan where the army has just taken power. At the age of 16, Taha dreams of studying arts, but his father has other plans for his son who is reluctant to follow the path laid out for him. In Karachi, where Taha returns with his family, he stumbles upon a society made of prohibitions that young people are trying to circumvent. He thinks he has found freedom despite the terror attacks in the country.

The attacks of September 11 have an impact on his life, and then his entry into university shapes him further to become a dissident. After going to a religious seminary and facing daily censorship, Taha gradually emancipates himself and finds his way by becoming a journalist and begins his career on a news channel (considered “haram” by his father!) His determination, his faith in his profession and his political commitment soon makes him a target like so many other journalists around the world.

A true chronicle of childhood and adolescence, Dissident Club traces with liberating and uninhibited humor the daily life of a young man struggling with religious fundamentalists as well as his fight for access to information and freedom of expression.

This joyful graphic novel offers us a clear vision of Pakistan and its relation with the Muslim world especially Saudi Arabia over the last thirty years as well as reflections on religion, its excesses and the faultlines of the community Taha grew up in.

It was released on 15th of March across France by Glenat, a leading French publishing house.