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Saudi Arabia: Twitter suspends colonel criticising MBS after defection

Colonel Rabih Alenezi criticised Vision 2030 and enforced disappearances before his Twitter account was suspended
Alenezi seen speaking in one of several lengthly video posted to YouTube earlier this week (YouTube)

The Twitter account of a Saudi Arabian man purporting to be a colonel in the General Directorate of Public Security has been suspended days after he announced his defection and publicly criticised the state of the kingdom.

In a video posted this week, Colonel Rabih Alenezi said he was abandoning his post over "dangerous violations to human rights" and "the reckless policies and political indiscretions" of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

Middle East Eye understands his account to be credible.

On Twitter, he expressed concern over the level of enforced disappearances in the kingdom and said that the crown prince's strategy to diversify Saudi Arabia's economy, Vision 2030, had been disastrous. 

He also retweeted a post about two members of the Howeitat tribe, thousands of whom have reportedly been displaced without adequate compensation or alternative housing, in order to make way for the $500bn Neom megaproject. 

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One of his last tweets before his suspension asked where the body of slain Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi was.

His YouTube page, including four lengthy videos posted in the past week, remains open.

Twitter, which has reportedly dismantled its press team, has not replied to a request for comment on Thursday.

Crackdown on online dissent

Alenezi's apparent defection came days after Emad al-Moubayed, the former imam at the King Abdulaziz Mosque in Dammam, fled the kingdom after criticising recent reforms in the entertainment industry on social media.

Posting any criticism of Saudi Arabia safely and freely online has become increasingly challenging for activists in recent years, with troll armies that are ready to attack criticism and spread propaganda, and the disappearances and arrests of those speaking out. 

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Over a dozen young people using anonymous social media accounts to criticise policies and practices in the kingdom disappeared in May and June 2021.

Their friends and observers have told MEE they suspect hundreds of others were arrested at the same time.

Several have turned up in prisons run by the secret police, charged with terrorism. 

One of them, Abdullah Jelan, was sentenced in November to 10 years in prison, and a 10-year travel ban, over his tweets about unemployment.

He joined a growing list of Saudis with little if any public profile, including Salma al-Shehab, Nourah al-Qahtani, and Saad Almadi, who have been handed lengthy sentences in the past year over tweets that criticised the Saudi government.

Saudi Arabian dissidents abroad have also faced repercussions for their social media posts. In November, a Saudi Arabian man with links to the government pled guilty in a US court to lying to FBI agents about social media accounts he used to intimidate Saudi dissidents in the US and Canada.

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