Saudi's ‘Julian Assange’ returns to Twitter

He's one of the most influential Saudis on Twitter - some call him the Saudi "Julian Assange" - but no one knows his real identity.

Yet still, 1.7m people are following his stream of anonymous online leaks against the royal family.

The Twitter account @Mujtahidd (which translates as "studious") belongs to an apparent Saudi whistleblower who has leaked documents indicating high-level corruption inside the Kingdom's royal family. He almost lost his 1.7m followers when Twitter recently suspended his account for unknown reasons.

But now, he is back on Twitter.

@Mujtahidd uses his platform to leak documents alleging corruption among members of the Saudi royal family, including the current King and Crown Prince. There have been harsh consequences for people criticising the royal family or religious establishment in Saudi Arabia. Under laws such as "breaking allegiance with the ruler" and online crime legislation, the Saudi authorities have jailed several human rights activists and reform advocates, according to Human Rights Watch. In 2014, according to reports, religious police shut down more than 10,000 Twitter accounts, citing religious and ethical violations.

Image copyright Twitter

So far @Mujtahidd - an account created in July 2011, only months after the Arab Spring kicked off - has been able to avoid repercussions, or at least until last week when his account was suspended for a few days.

Was this done at the authorities request? Twitter told BBC Trending that the company does not comment on individual accounts "for privacy and security reasons." We also asked for comment from the Saudi authorities - but got no response.

So who is the Saudi whistleblower and what are his aims? We made contact with him using his Twitter details and interviewed him on a chat platform, but he chose to remain anonymous - we've not been able to verify anything about him, the allegations he makes, or his location.


Can you give us some information on how you obtain the information that you publish on Twitter?

"In the beginning I used to depend on my own sources, and now that I have built my credibility many who of those who worry about the future of the country have built a relationship with me to leak the documents they have. I have my own sources inside the ruling family and in the royal court and in every province, in the military, security and intelligence and even the religious authorities".

‫Why should those who follow you trust what you write? Do you have evidence?

"I don't have to beg anyone to believe me. Much of what I publish happens and sometimes I provide documents as proof and I've managed to build credibility because of that."

What are you after?

"My mission is to expose corruption, injustice and hypocrisy. Activists then use the knowledge I provide them with to convince people to take action towards reform. I also use my credibility and number of followers to retweet any positive activities by these reformers."

It is noticeable that you focus in your tweets on some parts of the royal family, is that because you are close to some and support others?

"That's not true. I do not focus on certain section of the family. I've criticised members of every side of the family".

Some who follow your tweets wonder about your political leanings, some say that you are a Muslim Brotherhood sympathiser?

"Those who follow me know that my aim is to expose corruption and the hypocrisy of the Saudi authorities especially members of the royal family. You will definitely notice that my passion and beliefs are Islamic but what I propose has nothing to do with the Muslim Brotherhood".

Do you also criticise the religious authorities?

"Of course, and I consider them a part of the hypocrisy that misleads the citizens."

Are you worried about your identity being exposed?

"I'm not afraid. Not because I've taken precautions but because I'm almost certain that the government knows who I am. But they don't want to reveal my identity in fear of a scandal."

Do you have no fear because you are from the royal family as some suggest?

"No comment."

Aren't you concerned that the information you leak could destabilise Saudi Arabia, leading to similar consequences to the situation in neighbouring Arab countries?

"This is a question I would typically hear from the idiots who support the royal family".


Blog by Mai Noman

More from BBC Trending: The princess and the homeless Vogue reader

Or maybe you'd like to watch: The hit Russian propaganda film with Hollywood production values

You can follow BBC Trending on Twitter @BBCtrending, and find us on Facebook. All our stories are at bbc.com/trending.