Tag Archives: Asharq Al-Awsat

Saudi Arabia: #KSA, Hooked on Twitter

Kingdom ranks seventh in the world and first among Arab states for volume of tweets
File photo of the Twitter logo at their headquarters in  San Francisco, California. (AFP Photo/Kimihiro HOSHINO/FILES)

File photo of the Twitter logo at their headquarters in San Francisco, California. (AFP Photo/Kimihiro HOSHINO/FILES)

London, Asharq Al-Awsat—A recent study has revealed that 53 percent of Twitter users in Saudi Arabia are “addicted” to tweeting. The study, conducted by a researcher at King Saud University, Al-Bandari Al-Sahli, also found that an almost-equal 47 percent believed they could quit the social networking website.

Based on the answers of 1,190 male and female respondents aged between 16 and 35, the findings indicate that 29 percent of Saudi Twitter users go on the site mainly as an outlet to express their opinions. Others use it to communicate with friends and interact with people around the world.

Moreover, 20 percent of participants said they used the site to follow religious and creative celebrities. Those who used it for professional purposes—such as promoting a business or searching for a job—are comparatively small in number, around 1 or 2 percent of all users in the Kingdom.

When asked about the amount of time spent on Twitter each day, the study suggested that 45 percent of participants spent approximately one to three hours per day on the site, while 25 percent used it for less than one hour, and 18 percent for four to six hours. Only 2 to 4 percent of the Twitter users participating in the survey confessed to spending 7 to 12 hours a day tweeting and re-tweeting.

The study revealed that 24 percent of tweets from Saudi Arabia tackled general topics and issues of daily life.

Tweets about social issues ranked second with 20 percent, to be followed by religious issues with 14 percent, while humor and education accounted for 10 percent each. Politics accrued around 8 percent of Saudi tweets, while sports and business made up 5 and 3 percent, respectively.

The Saudi study is particularly timely, given that 41 percent of Saudi Internet users were identified as regular Twitter users in a study by Business Insider (BI) Intelligence completed in November 2013.

Speaking to Arab News in November, Ammar Mardawi, the executive director of Kindi Co and an information security expert, attributed the growth of Twitter in Saudi Arabia to three main factors: the wide distribution of smartphones, the appeal of e-networking in a country with a hot climate, and its widespread use by professionals and celebrities.

“These factors and others have contributed to the creation of more than a million new accounts on Twitter during the past year alone. Perhaps we will witness a similar increase next year, which would keep Saudi Arabia among the top countries in terms of Internet penetration,” said Mardawi.

Saudi Arabia ranks seventh in the world—and first among Arab states—in terms of total number of tweets per month. Around 4.1 percent of total tweets worldwide are made in Saudi Arabia, according to a study by Statista in November 2013. The recent Saudi Arabian study also suggests that the many Saudis on Twitter have no intention of leaving the social networking website any time soon.Written by :

What if Iran’s supreme leader dies?

An Iranian observer commented on the absence of Iran’s supreme leader from the public eye saying: “We are not receiving good news about the health of our leader who did not address the people and guests on the day of al-Ghadir… Pray for him.”

The abundance of personal rumors made us used to not believing them and the absence of the supreme leader for 20 days and from two occasions does not mean much. But, despite the weak account of the Iranian regime leader’s health, the question about what might happen after him poses itself forcibly: If the supreme leader died tonight, would Iran change its foreign policy?

The Iranian regime is collective, not like the regime of the late Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser for example. Nasser’s death led to a change in Egypt’s polices during the reign of his successor, Anwar Sadat. In single-ruler regimes the successor often revolts against his predecessor’s policies.

Regional experiences

For instance in Syria, when Bashar al-Assad succeeded his father, Syria’s policy changed in many ways. Syria reached a deadlock after the death of Bashar’s father, Hafez, who realized that belonging to a small religious sect (the Allawites) required him to engage in a complex balance of power. When he died, his son Bashar worked on changing the equation and enrolled in the service of the Iranian regime within a full-fledged alliance. He had the courage to assassinate senior figures in Syria, and then Lebanon, and supported terrorism activities in Iraq for years. He then resorted to violence against those who revolted against him.

Back to Iran

Would the death of the supreme leader – the man who has the final say in all state matters– change Iran’s policy for the better or worse? Unfortunately, it will likely be for the worse. All those who are rushing to succeed the supreme leader are more revolutionary than he is, especially with the growing role of the Revolutionary Guards in the state administration and public life. The Revolutionary Guards are running battles in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Bahrain, Yemen and Gaza.

A positive figure like Hashemi Rafsanjani has no luck in leading Iran. Rafsanjani ended up isolated and marginalized, even though he helped Ali Khamenei become the supreme leader. However, Khamenei turned against him and isolated him and imprisoned his children. Today, extremists are in control of the key decision-making positions in the Iranian government. Additionally, they have the support of the Revolutionary Guards. Most of Iran’s historical and moderate figures, who could have led the country towards peace and stability and work on the development and establishment of regional and international relations, such as Mehdi Karroubi and Mir Hussein Mousavi, have been alienated.

After 30 years of political extremism in Tehran, We hope we would be able catch a glimpse of light in the future of Iran and the Iranian leadership, but we are yet to see the light. These are not only our aspirations, but also the desires of the Iranian people who suffer every day, becoming among the poorest and most miserable, after they once were among the most successful people in the Middle East.

Iran’s regime today is an extremist institution in its reticence and espouses policies similar to Saddam Hussein’s regime in Iraq, Qaddafi’s Libya, Assad’s Syria and Kim Jong-un’s North Korea. We do not know what will happen tomorrow if Khamenei disappears from Iran’s political scene.


This article was first published in al-Sharq al-Awsat on Nov. 2, 2013.


Abdulrahman al-Rashed is the General Manager of Al Arabiya News Channel. A veteran and internationally acclaimed journalist, he is a former editor-in-chief of the London-based leading Arab daily Asharq al-Awsat, where he still regularly writes a political column. He has also served as the editor of Asharq al-Awsat’s sister publication, al-Majalla. Throughout his career, Rashed has interviewed several world leaders, with his articles garnering worldwide recognition, and he has successfully led Al Arabiya to the highly regarded, thriving and influential position it is in today.

Anti-US billboards crop up across Tehran, Iran

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Billboards of mysterious origin attacking the intentions of the United States in newly reopened negotiations with Iran have appeared across Tehran, at great expense, as opinion polls show the majority of Iranians are in favor of rapprochement with the US
An anti-US billboard is seen in Tehran, Iran, in this photograph taken last week. (Asharq Al-Awsat)

An anti-US billboard is seen in Tehran, Iran, in this photograph taken last week. (Asharq Al-Awsat)

Tehran, Asharq Al-Awsat—On the morning October 22, residents of Tehran leaving for work were confronted by huge billboards decrying, in Persian script, the “US’s honesty.”The billboards depict two men sitting, facing one another, with Iranian and American flags in the background indicating that one of the men is American and the other one Iranian. The image is an overt reference to direct talks between Tehran and Washington, which has become the talk of the town.

In one of the nine images, the US negotiator is shown armed with a gun and wearing fatigues and military boots. In another image, the American is shown with a vicious attack dog at his side.

An interesting point in the images is that the Iranian negotiator has been depicted to be growing goatee, a clear reference to Iranian foreign minister Mohamad Javad Zarif.

Even to less-informed observers, it is clear that these billboards have been designed and installed across the capital city for one purpose: to call into question the sincerity of the Americans as signs of a thaw in the two countries’ thirty-year standoff begin to appear.

In this anti-US billboard displayed across Tehran, Iran, a man implicitly seen to be a US negotiator is depicted with an attack dog. (Asharq Al-Awsat)

In this anti-US billboard displayed across Tehran, Iran, a man implicitly seen to be a US negotiator is depicted with an attack dog. (Asharq Al-Awsat)

Direct talks between Tehran and Washington resumed in September, when Zarif and US Secretary of State John Kerry met in New York and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and US President Barack Obama had their historic phone call.Now, there is growing hope for a rapprochement between the two countries, with nuclear talks between Iran and world powers also recently being resumed.

But the question of who installed these billboards remains.

Large numbers of them have been installed in busy streets and major squares and along arterial roads across the capital.

Each billboard is estimated to cost between IRR 400 and 500 million (USD 16,000–20,000) per month. There are 500 billboards installed in the city, and so keeping them up for just one month would cost at least 200 billion rials (USD 8 million).

Even more, billboards erected in the streets of Tehran require authorization from numerous government bodies, including Tehran Municipality and the Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance.

What is clear is that whoever is responsible for these images being displayed across the city is challenging the new administration’s foreign policy—and they must have both political and economic power.

But it may not be as difficult to identify those responsible for the billboards as one might think. The Tasnim news agency, a mouthpiece of the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC), has reported that the images were created by a group known as the House of Designers of the Islamic Revolution, in collaboration with the Mowj Media Center.

The official website of this group does not provide any information about their affiliation. Instead, on its website the group describes itself in rather vague terms: “The House of Designers of the Islamic Revolution is a cultural entity bringing together designers who are interested in practicing visual arts.”

The irony is that the billboard images have been republished on the House of Designers’ website, accompanied by a quote from Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, saying, “You intend to point arms at the Iranian nation and say, ‘You have either to negotiate or I shoot!’”

The website also gives a brief explanation of the motivations of those responsible for the images: “This collection was ready several months before heated debate about negotiations. But the willingness of both sides for relations based on honesty and sincerity—notwithstanding the US politicians’ history of breaking promises—prompted us to put the project on hold, as the US was facing a moment of truth. This honesty was trampled upon by tougher sanctions and the repetition of threatening language by Mr. Obama in his first meeting with Netanyahu,” a reference to Obama’s promise to the Israeli prime minister that the military option will remain on the table until concessions from Iran are secured.

In this anti-US billboard displayed in Tehran, Iran, a man implicitly depicted as a US negotiator is seen holding a pump-action gun during negotiations with an Iranian counterpart (not seen). (Asharq Al-Awsat)

In this anti-US billboard displayed in Tehran, Iran, a man implicitly depicted as a US negotiator is seen holding a pump-action gun during negotiations with an Iranian counterpart (not seen). (Asharq Al-Awsat)

More search to find the origins of this group will not end inconclusively. Tasnim news agency reports that these images have been designed with the sponsorship of Mowj Media Center and the House of Designers of the Islamic Revolution.The Iran Network website, which is affiliated with the Iran newspaper operated by the state-run Islamic Republic News Agency, has also been reporting that the Mowj Media Center was involved in the production of the billboards. In a commentary piece on the Iran Network, one writer said: “The organ that has ordered these billboards and banners is known as Mowj,” before sharply criticizing the move.

Mowj started its activities in 2011 under the management of Ehsan Mohammad Hosseini. It has defined its objectives as “the identification, education and orientation of talented revolutionary forces in different arts and media sectors, as well as preparing for the production and distribution of products in harmony with [the principles of] the Islamic Revolution.”

However, public reactions to the billboards on social networking websites have not been positive. One resident of Tehran told Asharq Al-Awsat: “The [billboards’] objective is to sway people, who according to opinion polls are 80 to 90 percent in favor of relations with US. But it is shameful to let authorities down when the administration elected by the nation is engaging in difficult and intensive talks.”

This citizen was referring to an opinion poll ordered by the Iranian president following his September trip to the UN General Assembly on his government’s actions in New York and the resumption of ties with the US more generally.

Newspapers close to the government have reported that the primary results of those surveys indicate that the majority of respondents favored change in the nature of Iran–US ties.

Parsia, another resident of Tehran, summed up the majority attitude on her Facebook page: “Iran’s radicals and Benjamin Netanyahu are currently playing on the same court. They always fish in muddy waters and benefit from wars. They never want friendship between Iran and the US.”

Proponents and opponents of normalization of ties between Iran and the US are locked in an ongoing battle, and these billboards are only the latest attack in this war of attrition. All that remains is to see how proponents of improved ties with the US will respond.