Mujtahidd, an anonymous Twitter user from Saudi Arabia, has been called the “gutter of the press.” A Saudi prince called him a “slanderer” and a “hired tool.” Some say the whistle-blower, who is now a household name among Saudis who use social media, is the Julian Assange of of the nation.Behind the screams of the protest from Tahrir square and the abhorring images depicting Syria’s civil war, Saudi Arabia may have begun a quieter revolution of their own; Twitter has given Saudis their first legitimate outlet for dissent and criticism against the ruling regime, and Mujtahidd — the alias means ‘studious’ in Arabic — has emerged as the symbolic leader of the movement.
The anonymous user, who started tweeting about a year ago, told the Beirut-based news organisation Al-Akhbar that he or she is on a campaign that “starts with exposure of those who are corrupt and ends with their removal.”
He or she revealed to the public that Crown Prince Nayef bin Abdul-Aziz, a “hard-line” interior minister who passed away this summer, had bypass surgery prior to his death.
He tweeted the following at Prince Talal bin Abdul-Aziz, brother of King Abdullah:
“Do you deny that the total land that you own within the country amounts to tens of millions of square meters and most of it is in the major cities?”
His tweets regularly elicit staunch denials by those implicated. In this case, Prince Talal responded: “I do not have any land except the 40,000 square meters, which is my house and some small plots surrounding it.”
Mujtahidd’s biggest target so far has been Abdul-Aziz bin Fahd, the youngest son of the late King Fahd. “In terms of financial corruption he is definitely the worst,” the activist told OWNI.eu.
Mujtahidd tweeted the following directly to bin Fahd on December 2, 2011:
“Is it true that your palace in Riyadh next to the Yamama Palace is larger than the king’s residence and cost the state around 12 billion riyals because it is comprised of several palaces? Is it true that it is 2 million square meters in area and [its construction] began in 1994 and work continued until 2003, and the real cost was 3 billion and the rest (9 billion) went between you and Hariri?”
And most recently, he explained in great detail how the Saudi royal line of succession works should the current king — who is 88 years old — pass away.
No one knows who Mujtahidd is. Not even if it’s a woman or a man, how the anonymous tipster knows what she or he knows (the most common theory is that Mujtahidd is an alienated member of the royal family), or if what he or she says is true or false.
But Mujtahidd’s popularity is undeniable. The Twitter account grabbed 200,000 followers in its first two months according to Al-Akhbar. Today Mujtahidd has just over 680,000 followers —many of whom started following Mujtahidd after the Grand Mufti of Saudi Arabia, Abdul-Aziz al-Sheikh, issued a statement denouncing Twitter as a tool used to “spread lies,” “issue fatwas without basis and not supported by evidence,” and “smear” political and religious leaders.
Whatever the case, Mujtahidd has clearly emerged as a “relentless thorn for authorities who have been unable to silence him so far.” And censoring the anonymous activist not even be plausible. Most observers — including his dissidents — recognise that the popularity of @mujtahidd goes “beyond Twitter.”
“If Twitter changes,” Mujtahidd adds, “another network will replace it.”
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