Media Details

The Unspoken Price of Payments

2024-07-17 |


Faisal Saeed Al Mutar

Additional resources


This is a provisional transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

We were delighted to have been joined again by one of the most inspiring speakers to have featured at the 2022 World Ethical Data Forum, Faisal Saeed al-Mutar, who participated in one of our ongoing series of Q and A sessions. Fielding questions from our global audience, Faisal shared his expertise, tracking from his youth growing up under the unforgiving regime of Sadaam Hussein in Iraq, and through to the latest developments and success stories from his impactful Middle-East based NGO. Faisal is the founder of Ideas Beyond Borders, an organisation designed to educate those in at risk communities and bring digital literacy to populations, has been a leading light in the technology ethics area, and we were delighted Faisal was able to take some time out of his busy schedule to join us to explore his many contributions to this sphere. The following is an abridged version of this Q and A session, and as always, to watch the full video as well as Faisal’s keynote from WEDF2022, be sure to check it out on our dedicated WEDF platform:

So the first question is could you explain the purpose behind your organisation, Ideas Beyond borders and how you fit into the wider human digital rights ecosphere?

So the larger mission of Ideas Beyond Borders is making inaccessible information accessible in repressive societies. So, by default of the fact that it is in repressive societies, the ideas that many of these societies and regimes in these societies don't like, are the ideas that I will say are that there are three main components of the content that we make available. Number one is critical thinking. So part of the mission of the organisation is really teaching people how to think, not what to think. So we try to create content [and] video series… making it accessible for people to download, but also make it easy to digest. So the three main parts or components that we focus on are critical thinking, human rights, and science. These are the three things that authoritarian regimes, as I said, don't like, so this is where we intersect with the three of these groups, so we have done a lot of work and combating misinformation. I have done a lot of work combating censorship because most of the knowledge about this subject is not available and also the same with science, so we try to intersect with all of these three.

Speaking of critical thinking, the next question is: Helping to foster critical thinking skills is a crucial approach to combating censorship and other controls. Could you give us some examples of the work of Ideas Beyond Borders in this area?

So I'm gonna start with an example that actually I would say resembles a lot of what we do. When Covid-19 started in March 2020, there was a very significant disinformation campaign, something I forgot to mention, our main focus is the Middle East and North Africa region, and we recently expanded to Afghanistan, so our sphere of influence is mostly focused on the Middle East and North Africa region. So in March 2020, large countries, like China and Russia had done massive disinformation campaigns, focusing on the Arab world mentioning that covid was created by the CIA or it was created by the US or even in many cases, denying that this thing was even a reality. So when we noticed that, we looked at two approaches. One approach was doing an immediate literacy series, so that is what we call the long-form long-term approach which is for us, again back to telling people how to think and not what to think, is actually teaching people how they consume media in the first place. When you see an article that makes a lot of claims, look at for example first, do they have evidence to support these claims? Where are the sources where they're citing these things? What is the difference between an opinion and editorial piece? So that is what we call the long term approach, which is getting people to understand how they consume information in the first place without us telling them: “Oh here is the truth, and this is wrong”. Part of our approach is that we tell our audiences that we're not always right and actually in many cases we are wrong, so we try to teach people to question authority. We try to get people to understand confirmation bias and logical fallacies. That’s as I say, the long form approach.

The short term approach in that specific situation, is actually focusing on providing, so we started launching this campaign called Stopping The Spread, in which we were making it easier for people to understand some of the precautions that they can take when it came to Covid and because many people were questioning these authoritarian regimes, or these authorities even deny that this is reality, we did a kind of an educational campaign focusing on getting people to know what the facts are.

So you mentioned in your WEDF2022 talk that you have supported about 20 schools. Have you added more schools? And how are the schools currently doing?

So I suppose that you are talking about our program that focuses on underground schools in Afghanistan. To give context to the audience, since the [US] withdrawal from Afghanistan around August 2021, the Taliban regime has taken over Afghanistan again, and one of their main targets have been women. If you see the latest news, there was even a ban not just on women going to school but now women working in NGOs and other places. So now with this ban… they have disabled 50% of society from being a contributor to society, and even being part of society. One of the things we have in addition to our educational programs, is we have a program called The Innovation Hub. So the easiest way to understand IBB right now is that we have the educational programs that educate and then we have the innovation help program that activates. So if somebody wants to do something related to education and knowledge, within these societies that we work in we try to support them.

After the disaster that happened in Afghanistan and 2011, we have been connected actually through journalists and international correspondents inside Afghanistan, to many of these teachers who are taking it upon themselves to build underground networks. Without going into the specifics of what that is, [they’re] trying to teach many of these girls to continue their education and not only continue in the education system, but also continue to have that energy to study. So their biggest fear was that, let's say if the women had stopped going to school for like five years or six years, they would lose the momentum and the energy for them to continue education. So they took it upon themselves to as I said [create] that underground network and to continue the education. Some of them, these women, some of them follow that same education system that exists in Afghanistan and some are taking a more vocational approach, that teaches people coding, graphic design, skill sets that allow women to continue making an income while working from home… So there are two types of schools that have approached us, one that as I said focuses on the education system that exists, and one that is vocational. So we have been approached by roughly 46, and more and more are coming up right now.

So right now and how are the schools currently doing? That's a very good question. I don't want to do self-promotion here, but I do interviews, I have a website or blog I would say, called The International Correspondence, in which I cover some of these issues. And if you go to, I just recently published an interview I have done with one of those teachers. Obviously we did not use her real name, and she can talk about the schools. The situation is amazingly difficult for this specific audience. One of the interesting things that was brought up, is that the Taliban is buying a significant amount of surveillance cameras and also surveillance technologies that track people's movements. So one of the things that some of the teachers were mentioning is that now there are cameras, pretty much everywhere within Kabul, and even some of the other provinces with which people are constantly being tracked. So that makes it more and more, not impossible, but more and more difficult, for any operation that kind of counters the Taliban's ideology or the Taliban’s regime that are related most importantly into women's education. So in the article, she goes kind of in detail about the fears that she has and the fact that the more that surveillance technology will increase, the less likely they will be able to continue doing their work.

The other piece which is not necessarily connected to surveillance but was connected to accessibility, is that the internet in Afghanistan now, is very expensive for a lot of people  because the internet or the ISPs internet service providers etc. are not in a very good shape. So there is definitely work [that] needs to be done in the internet accessibility piece. Not just the fact that the entire [thing] is available or whether it's censorious in nature…

It’s amazing to hear about the varied work of Ideas Beyond Borders, how did you begin with this? And do you have any advice for people or organisations that would like to emulate you and your work?

I'm not sure you’d want to emulate me, but, but that's debatable. I suppose I'm asking two things. How does anyone become Fasial? I might actually skip that question, and how does an organisation become Ideas Beyond Borders? I will try to avoid any questions that relate to me and sound like I'm self-aggrandising. So how did I begin this? That's a very good question. I mean I could go into kind of the original story, which really started when I was a teenager and kind of the context that I grew up in that eventually made me inspired to do what I'm doing.

So I briefly mentioned that in my [WEDF2022 Keynote] conversation, I grew up under the regime of Saddam Hussein in Iraq where the punishment for owning a satellite television or even accessing information from outside, was jail and sometimes death. So I grew up in what is sometimes called the 1984 of the Middle East, and then we transitioned from this. There used to be two or three television networks, all of them owned by the state. So as a result pretty much all of the information ecosystem was controlled by the state, that includes the media, that includes the education system, the schools, the universities etc. So after that, and that's actually [where] we see my transition to the importance of critical thinking, we went from a kind of propaganda state owned television in which there is one narrative and one truth and if you deviate from it you are gone, then we went into what is sometimes called the balkanization of Iraq in which now it became that there were multiple Iraqs at the same time, multiple countries in which everybody is receiving different forms of information because then we started having free media. So we went from like two media channels, to like a thousand and most of these media channels after the fall of the regime were owned by militias, political parties, other actors, so you can meet 10 people and they can give you 20 different perspectives about what reality is… 

So growing up in this kind of ecosystem, I mean on a personal level, I would consider myself very privileged, I grew up in a family that really appreciates both education and critical thinking in particular. In fact me and my dad used to have this sort of tradition… I don't know if my dad is watching this, but he always used to tell me okay, just because I'm your dad doesn't mean I'm right you can always make up your mind, you’ve always got to think for yourself. So that's what I would say. It's definitely [a] privilege, I love my parents, especially this kind of upbringing that allowed me to to think...

And my dad, when he retired, the first thing he tried not to do is go on vacations like everyone else. Mostly he's reading books and watching YouTube videos and National Geographic documentaries and all that stuff. So I was raised in that kind of an environment. I think that helped me develop to be where I am. So that may actually answers partially the question about how does someone become like me.

So how does an organisation become Ideas being borders?

…I mean in a kind of a humorous way, we always say that we want to make ideas sexy. So like the idea that people actually love to know about critical thinking, many of these subjects tend to be not necessarily I would say, academic only, but the fact that it's very boring and the thing with misinformation and bad ideas, is they tend to be very exciting. They tend to reach out to your emotions, they try to manipulate people. The goal is how to make reality or critical thinking itself to be not necessarily as interesting, but interesting enough for people to absorb and to know about these kinds of ideas.

So that's I would say number one, number two is that we are very much against existing just for the sake of existing. So there are many organisations that really just become a bureaucracy. They start with necessarily good intentions that think like that, and then after a while, after five years, after six years, they become too bureaucratic and they start having a lot of red tape, and really the energy and the soul behind these organisations starts dying. I don't want to mention names but I think you probably know which ones I'm talking about… So we try to, if we see if we have reached a level where we think that we have accomplished what we said we wanted to accomplish, we actually stop and also now thanks to some of our supporters, we're working on activating people to do the things we want to do and really empowering the locals for us to cease to exist already operate in that space. So to give you a very good example, like in terms of the book publishing industry or even ideas within the Middle East, yes, we make the books available, but we also support local publishing houses. So in that way, we'll be like, okay, we're going to translate this book. We're going to take the cost. We're going to make it available. We're going to support you to print and make revenue out of some of these books, and at the same time through that revenue you will use it to hire more people, do more books on your own. So we try to, especially now with our Organisation Hub Program, which is kind of our supporting arm, the goal for us is ceasing to exist. So we try to empower as many people as possible.

Another great example is Wikipedia. I just spoke at a media conference in Dubai, and one of the things that we're mostly known for, [is] kind of rebuilding the Arabic Wikipedia. We've added roughly 30,000 articles by now to test artificial intelligence. You'll now see that artificial intelligence translation between English to Arabic is actually much better because we have added roughly, I think 30-40 million words in the past five years. So as a result the sentence structure and all of that stuff has developed within the arabic speaking language. So you see that there is a big improvement. Now that this is done right, we have created all of the library, if you look at the library of astronomy or critical thinking,  you can see that Ideas Beyond borders are everywhere… We've done that, and we’re not like, oh, let's build another bureaucracy for us to maintain this program, we actually shifted into languages that we can actually make more impact. So now we [have] expanded into Dari which is Farsi which is the language spoken in Afghanistan and Iran, and also we're going into Pashto and that's actually a language that really needs a lot of help because it's very underrepresented… I'm a believer that we'll always have work to do on this Earth.

The third thing is… don't spread yourself too thin, there are many organisations that  try to focus on everything. They want to focus on many countries that have very different service providers, very different laws, very different cultures, and we get a lot of requests like, why don't you expand to North Korea? Why don’t you expand to China etc., and the thing is, we don't have the knowledge to expand at the moment. We don't have the funding and also we don't have the knowledge… One of the things that we want to do, is go to one region and do it really well. And then I think you mentioned the word emulate, we want to build successful models. And we're happy to work and continue to work with organisations like the World Liberty Congress, human rights foundations etc. then be like, okay, this is our success story, this is how we have done it, you can take what we have learned and you can apply it in your own countries in your own context. So I would say that's the third main thing, do one thing, focus on one region and do it really well, and then other regions around the world can learn about what you have done, and then they can kind of modify it to what works and and their own context…

It was interesting hearing about the work on the freedom technology campaign and the reach it had. Are you and the team working on any other large scale campaigns like that we can be on the lookout for?

Definitely. So the freedom technology campaign is one of the campaigns that we did in partnership with Mobilecoin, which is sometimes known as the cryptocurrency of Signal. So Signal the messaging app, if you go to Signal payments, you'll see that this is the wallet that they have and that's called Mobilecoin. And Mobilecoin have been very generous, they are very interested in our company and organisation, really interested in kind of information accessibility and also the circumvention, circumventing tools. So in terms of getting people that access, VPNs and things like that, we are in conversations right now to continue our partnership with Mobilecoin and really expand the campaign which I probably discussed a bit last time. It's an educational campaign… so one of our highest viewed videos in that campaign was What Is Cryptocurrency? There were lots of people that were interested, and also a lot of people when we saw some of the comments, we read that many people because of all of wars and conflicts and sometimes high inflation in many of these countries… and as a result there is a lot of interest in money transfer and most importantly encrypted money transfer, and the kind of ways in which people can send or receive money from their families overseas and in some cases human rights defenders, who are on the front lines fighting for freedom, we're seeing right now in Iran or many other countries, in which people are on the front lines fighting for their freedom and they are worried to use what is sometimes referred to as the traditional money transfer companies. The fact that at least when I first heard about cryptocurrency, Mobilecoin and outside, I learned a bit about Bitcoin etc, when I first looked at it, I just didn't look at it as you know, how can you invest I know $5,000 and it will become five million dollars.. But what I do understand… is the technological value, and the value when it comes to ‘how much does this technology help human rights defenders and help people fighting for freedom’.

So one of the most known technologies about this is VPNs. VPNs, while they do not necessarily help you avoid being tracked by authoritarian regimes, they help you on some occasions circumvent the websites that regimes censor. So what VPNs do is that they connect you to a different server, and that server exists in a free country, and therefore it redirects you to the website. So in that way, if you are living in Iran, and then you want to access Instagram and Instagram is banned in Iran, you go through a server in the United States, and through the United States you’re able to access Instagram. And then the other thing is the payment subject, which is that many many of these countries, especially those with repressive societies, the regimes are trying [to] control, is money. So if they're able to stop especially human rights defenders, opposition forces etc from receiving any form of monetary support, they are able to kind of disable them. So as a result many like one for example, a very interesting occasion, and i'm not gonna mention the country but it's in the Middle East, in which one of the people that translated the works of John Stuart Mill who's the author of Liberty and some other books on free speech and freedom of thought etc. So [an individual] was going to Western Union and he was like, I received this money from organisation X and the person at Western Union reported him to the intelligence services.

So Western Union is a traditional system in which people pay money and then they receive it, and they send money and then they receive it in another country… when I was trying to kind of understand  the technology I was like, okay, this is like again for me not about investing a couple thousand and and becoming a millionaire, it was more about like this is technology that can save lives and and that is why I think there's a lot of demand for for for stuff like this within within regions that are kind of closed…

People get jailed, people get killed, people disappear for saying the wrong thing or in  the views of some of these regimes, doing the wrong thing. So we're in conversation with Mobilecoin to continue this additional partnership, and we happily welcome any partnerships within this space that aim within the scope of giving people the education and the tools for them to be free and then and to have accessibility to the world we live in.

What thoughts do you have about safety? How do you think about risk in your own work for yourself and for others?

That's a very difficult question to answer, and I can touch on a bit of my life story and where I am right now. I mean I come from a wartorn country. So by default, my sense of security is a bit higher on some spaces but lower on others. I do have a I would say low standards of safety compared to many people who grew up in a more safe environment. So that being said, I do take safety very seriously both physically and digitally as probably you know, I am a refugee.

So I left my home country of Iraq in 2009, and it was a long journey of going between multiple countries, that was definitely not safe, to eventually end up here in the United States. And the United States is actually kind of, it's a mixed record when it comes to safety. There are a lot of activists, actually one of the most known ones is Masih Alinejad from Iran. There were two attempts to, I believe assassinate her in her own home in Brooklyn, and thanks to the security here, they were able to catch the people who tried to kill her. There was another case for an author in Upstate New York, Salman Rushdie, he was stabbed and I believe, I believe he’s still alive. He just made a post on the New Yorker. So even the US is actually not a very safe place for people who are outspoken about these ideas. So it's very important I mean, I don't want to share my safety measures, but I do take a significant amount of precaution in terms of who to meet and where to meet, and when I'm travelling to some other parts of the world where there's more risk, I'm in touch with a lot of security companies and even if I was on the cheap end, I try to take what is sometimes called a security report. So they send you a report, here are the basic precautions you have to take, here are some recommended hotels, here it’s recommended you don't take public transportation, don’t go to crowded places…

For others, so that would be the IBB kind of larger beneficiaries and staff etc., we do provide all of our team with VPNs. Actually, one of our friends at Google, Venicious, happens to also now be on our advisory board, and behind Google's VPN. We do an annual Q&A for many of our translators and team to get to know if they have any questions about digital security. I actually welcome anybody who has digital security training to generously come and give us some of the updates about digital security and what [precautions] people can take. So we do when we onboard people, especially those who live in closed societies, we try to get them engaged and knowledgeable about many techniques that they can follow to reduce the risk. We don't publish many of the names of the people that we work with… we post enough to show that this thing is happening so people would know that the money they have given us to [show] this is actually going to the right places and it's going to these people so that is you know, the balance that we try to do. It's like when donors give us money they obviously expect that we actually do what we said we would do right? So we try to communicate that, sometimes actually in many cases privately to the donors, especially if there was any kind of revealing information that says okay you’re giving us $5,000 and that was to pay for school for two months. Here's the school. We don't show the location…

So we try to create that balance, not sharing any revealing information about the people that we support, especially the ones that we do publicly without their consent or actually even with consent, sometimes we just say like it's better not to, and enough for people to know that we are doing these things for us to continue being functional, but not to a level where it in any shape or form compromises the the life of the of the people that we work with. So, that's really the balance that we try to take, it's very difficult.

That's one of the subjects when somebody tells me that they want to be like me, it's never necessarily the the best thing in the world, in which you have to deal with a lot of moral dilemmas and a lot of dilemmas in general, because in some cases in which actually people say, oh like I can put my name, I can put myself and, sometimes I don't want to sound like I'm parental who’s like, oh I know more about your country than you do and then after they do like that media interview etc then they call me and I was like, oh, hey I just got a call from the intelligence services, like I know buddy, I know where you live... So sometimes it’s that I try to give people some freedom and say, that’s kind of, that's the moral dilemma, you want to give people enough kind of choice or feeling of choice for them to feel that this is there and their own consequences, but at the same time sometimes, you know more than others and you have to tell them that, because you know more than them it's better for them to take these these precautions…

You touched upon growing up in Iraq and how the level of censorship impacted your understanding of the First Gulf War. With the development of social media and other technologies and ways that have enabled us to be potentially controlled, do you believe they have generally been more negative than positive or have they been genuinely beneficial?

Perfect question. … In oppressive societies, most of the information is controlled by the state. So in a way social media for me, and actually for others, is really sometimes the only way to know the truth, because if the state controls everything if malicious and political parties control everything and they control this the space of media, they control the satellite television the control the radio etc, the only way that you would know about what's happening is through social media. So I think that for the Middle East in particular and that's what I'll say my subject expertise is, social media has been very beneficial. I actually view social media in the region in a very positive light. It is a place where people have been introduced to ideas about, science, critical thinking, it’s where I think good ideas really flourish because they're away, because people can hide their names they can go into more… So I think that I would say, at least from my expertise, is that in the Middle East in particular, social media has been very beneficial to the people there. And yes, you can find some negative stories here and there, but I always challenge this….

But the thing is, bad ideas have always found a place in the world… There was this example, I think it was on The Verge, and during the US elections, there was somebody who created two Facebook events. I think that was done, two Facebook events and one was like ‘Trump is my President’ one was like ‘Trump is not my President’. It's the same guy by the way, same dude, so he created these two events, one I think created in New York City and one was in Alabama. And he was able to get New York, mostly known as a Democratic town so many of the people wouldn’t try Trump, so he was able to take these people, get them into a protest, and then he was able to get these people who are kind of pro-Trump to get into a protest and then he was able to use the content of this [Trump event] to post in this [other event] so that the people who are like loving Trump, he was posting in the anti-Trump group and vice versa. And then as a result, they found that this person lives in Macedonia and as a result like I was like, whoa, like this says something about that to critical thinking back to media literacy etc. It seems like it was very easy that when you are being invited event to know who the host is. I mean, that sounds like basic common sense to actually, if you get invited to an event, you would know who is hosting it, and it seems like it wasn’t that difficult to actually click on who the host is and know who that person is and what was their agenda Etc. It seems like many people didn't do any of that. So like, they saw an event that was following their narrative that they were trying to look for, and they went for it like sheep…

Is it really the information that is the problem, or is it how people consume the information that’s the problem? Because if people clicked on the host and they were able to see that this person has two events that contradict each other, that is a question mark. Okay. Well, why would somebody create two events, one New York one, Alabama? They are against each other. You would think that people think about these things, and it seems like there is a lot of work that needs to be done on this subject about how people consume information in the first place, and then when they do, I hope that might not sound like imaginary thinking, but if they do that, then maybe social media will improve because now we have kind of people have a vaccine against bullshit. So maybe… we should also focus on information in general and how people consume it, and maybe if people improve their social media will actually improve as a result of that.

That being said, there is this conversation being said about like, social media relies on advertising and therefore relies on sensationalism, but I think that if people are trained to avoid sensationalism trained to avoid biases etc. then these things might be less bad.

Following up on this, do you see the potential for accountability and exposure through social media as a good thing? For example with open source intelligence from video footage on the ground in war zones or citizen journalism in oppressive regimes?

Um, I mean accountability is always a great thing. And exposure especially for good ideas as always good there the open source thing. I think I know which technology you are talking about, open source intelligence, which is the one I believe that verifies if the video is true or false utilising open source materials. I think this is a super wonderful idea and I think in fact the only way to do it is open source... So I think that the connection of these two of Open Source and citizen journalism would be, I think, very beneficial. So I think I see both of these as a positive, part of a positive life.

…For those of us who grew up in oppressive societies, so back to me growing up even though I didn't grow up long under the regime of Saddam Hussein but I learned a lot from people who are older than me, is that one out of four adults is in the intelligence services. So imagine that, so one out of every four people that you meet, is in intelligence, and that person might report you. In fact, I still remember in high school one of my friends, he told me that his parents got divorced because I think the wife thought that the husband was in the intelligence services. So imagine that, the psyche? Not authoritarianism as you see it as people going to jail and people getting killed etc., but how much it destroys the psyche of the society… The reason behind that is that if you destroy trust within society, you're not gonna have a reliable opposition force because people cannot organise, because if I'm afraid of you and you’re afraid of me and I'm afraid of my best friend, you're not gonna talk about details. You’re not gonna talk about logistics. Everybody is afraid of everybody. So as a result this destroys friendships, it destroys the psyche of a population and the general public.

I mean Iraq is a very interesting example, because it transitioned by force through US military force from Saddam Hussein into chaos right? And part of the reason why there was chaos, is that the people from a society standpoint eventually quickly led to our Civil War. I mean the Civil War that I lived in which I would say was a defining characteristic of my life, I would say that I remember more of the Civil War than I remember the actual war, is that how many people as a result of living for decades under authoritarianism and like a hard heavy-handed authoritarianism I'm not talking about the light version of authoritarianism, is that it really destroys trust between the people trust in society as a whole, trust in institutions. And that most people follow things because the governments tell them to, and as a result they become extremely dependent on the institutions of government. So when things fall apart, the whole thing falls apart, it's like a prison and then you take the prison guards and then the people are like what the hell? and then everybody starts killing each other, which is exactly what happened…

What's your opinion on the use of cash and how some governments and businesses around the world are restricting the use of it?

There are, I mean it depends on the country, but in Iraq Syria etc, I grew up in a cash based society. So most people there do not have the concept of a credit card, they have some concept of a debit card in which people receive, I think their retirement salary etc, and there are few ATMs in hotels and banks that people can withdraw from, so some countries are very hard cash based some are not.

The reason why they are very cash based is actually kind of ironic, it’s because of money laundering and terrorism. So many people, because of Iraq being a chaotic state etc., cash is untraceable. And that is what unfortunately the cash reputation is, and also because of very heavy corruption. Billions of dollars get stolen by politicians. So cash, part of the reason why they keep it is because of that, and there is kind of a resistance from many governments, especially Iraq to join Swift system to avoid that tracking piece. Because of the corruption stuff… So the way that they try to keep restricting the human rights stuff, is by heavy surveillance dates and heavy intelligence services. So they keep the cash, but they have, as I said, one out of four people is in intelligence. What they might do in the future is that they may increase the surveillance in technology... To reduce human dependency in more surveillance technology, more artificial intelligence. So as a result, they can keep the cash. They can keep the cash and the freedom that sort of comes with cash, but also control the population. I think that will be the case. I think that will be at least for the next 10 years, it will be the case of many countries in the region, that they will keep the cash because that would allow politicians to get into private jets and all of that stuff without having to worry about any form of accounting, and then at the same time increase surveillance technology on the on the general public in which they can, they can control the population.

Our final question is, do you think there are cases in which surveillance or the kinds of oppression you help fight can ever be justified? I imagine you'll say no, but what can we do to prevent this from being so common? Is it down to organisations like Ideas Beyond Borders and WEDF to work together to help protect people and offer them tools to defend themselves?

That's, I mean, the first one is a very moral question… The main moral question is, how can you give people freedom while at the same time maintain the role of law. So I'm a big believer in the rule of law. I've lived in a civil war. Screw Civil War. Screw chaos. I liked the idea of, at least my mom liked the idea that [when I went] to school, I came back alive… I think that the rule of law and systems are necessary for any civilisation and functional society. So I think the question is, how can you maintain the rule of law, how can you reduce crime, while at the same time allow people to have freedom of speech, allow people to think for themselves because that itself, freedom speech and thinking for themselves will lead to more innovation when you get people freedom to think they will also create great things. So in a way, I don't see that, I know you're talking about surveillance, but I don't see that that kind of rule of law and let's say security and freedom, are necessarily at a fight with each other. I think that there is a balance to be made. 

I actually lean more towards the freedom piece than the security piece because I think you can only do so much to create security without jeopardising a lot of civil liberties. And every time there is a regulation of some sort or a security measurement of some sort, I only ask the question: Now you have a regulation, who regulates the regulator? And how can you make sure that the regulation actually achieves what it says it will do? Because eventually, it's made by humans and humans are many times corrupt. So I actually lean more toward less regulation, more freedoms for people, while at the same time they create a rule of law I think. Is it up to organisations like IBB and WEDF? Of course… I think many of us have weaknesses and strengths, and as a coalition we can really help each other out. I'm a very big fan of coalition creation…

I’m actually not an absolutist in both of these things. I do think that some security is necessary, but I think sometimes some countries overdo it.

Thank you Faisal, how can people stay in touch?

I actually expected fewer questions. So, so I hope I was of help and answered as many questions as I can. My email is,  I would love to be connected, a very smart audience. I loved this conversation and thank you all very much, and I look forward to continuing this and being connected with you all. Thank you.

To find out more about the work and history of Ideas Beyond Borders, check out their website: Remember to also keep an eye on our WEDF social media accounts for the inside scoop on our next Q and A guests, join us on our platform, and have your questions answered by world leading thinkers and movers in all kinds of industries and areas.