Saudi Arabia accuses Qatar of using Twitter to stoke dissent

:: Saudi Arabia, which is part of the Anti-Terror Quartet (ATQ), on Thursday accused Doha of being behind over 23,000 Twitter accounts trying to stoke dissent in Saudi Arabia.

“We found over 23,000 Twitter accounts driven by Qatar, some of them linked to accounts calling for ‘revolution’ in Saudi Arabia,” Information Minister Awwad Saleh Al-Awwad told AFP during a visit to Paris.

They included the @mujtahidd account, which claims to have the inside track on the Saudi royal household and has over 1.8 million followers, he said.

The account, which has backed Qatar, claimed that Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Bahrain and the UAE had set out to overthrow Qatari Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani but decided against it after coming under pressure from the US, an ally of both Riyadh and Doha.

Al-Awwad accused a London-based Saudi dissident, Saad Al-Faqih, of being behind the account, “together with Qatar.”

Some of the accounts identified by Riyadh as being Qatari proxies were behind calls for protests by the jobless on April 21, he said.

According to one study, 32 percent of the fake accounts come from Qatar, 28 percent from Lebanon, 24 percent from Turkey and 12 percent from Iraq.

The study found links, in the forms of re-tweets and likes, between these accounts and others that call for revolution, stir public opinion or spread rumors about Saudi Arabia, said Saud Al-Qahtani, adviser to the Saudi Royal Court and general supervisor of the Center for Studies and Information Affairs.

Al-Qahtani added that 82 percent of these accounts use false pseudonyms, and about 18 percent of the others cannot be verified.

Recently, the Gulf Association for Rights and Freedoms appealed to two international rights organizations for an urgent intervention over Qatar’s move to ban expat workers taking their annual leave.

The association has sent an “urgent appeal” to the International Labour Organization and the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights in Geneva, asking them to “intervene urgently regarding the grave violation” the Qatari government is committing against citizens and expats, according to the UAE state news agency WAM.

Approximately 2.2 million expats work in Qatar, the majority from countries in Asia.

The ban on Qatari nationals and expat workers taking annual leave may endanger their working conditions, according to Mohammed Hayef, the rights association’s spokesperson.

Hayef warned that such a decision is likely to increase rates of serious and fatal work accidents, “due to depriving workers and placing them under harsh working conditions and physical, psychological and social pressures.”

Qatar’s decision “contradicts the conventions of the International Labour Organization and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and violates the basic human right to enjoy annual leave,” Hayef said.

“By this unjust decision, Qatar has violated the most important universal and humanitarian provision in the International Labour Organization’s constitution,” which clearly condemns working conditions “involving injustice, hardship and privation to large numbers of people as to produce unrest so great that the peace and harmony of the world are imperilled.”

Hayef referred to construction workers on the 2022 FIFA World Cup project, who are also negatively affected by the ban.

According to a previous report, more than 1,200 construction workers died while building stadiums for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.

“One human rights agency estimates more than 4,000 construction workers will die building World Cup-related infrastructure,” the previous report said.

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