New Delhi: On 23 April, Twitter suspended an account @SayyidaMona, which appeared to belong to Omani princess Mona bint Fahad, but was allegedly operated by Pakistani users.
The previous day, this account had posted a tweet that went viral for its anti-India stance: “Oman stands with its Muslim brothers and sisters in India. If the Indian Govt doesn’t stop the persecution of Muslims, then 1million workers living in Oman may be expelled. I will definitely take up this issue with the Sultan of Oman. @narendramodi”
The real Princess Mona issued a clarification on 22 April that the viral tweet was not posted by her. The Indian ambassador to Oman, Munu Mahawar, acknowledged the princess on the same day: “I thank HH @MonaFahad13 for clarification on fake social media posts attributed to her. India values its friendly relations with Oman and will continue working closely with the Government and people of Oman to further strengthen our special relationship.”
I thank HH @MonaFahad13 for clarification on fake social media posts attributed to her.
India values its friendly relations with Oman and will continue working closely with the Government and people of Oman to further strengthen our special relationship.@MEAIndia@MofaOman https://t.co/9FET0ADw1r
— Amb Munu Mahawar (@AmbMunu) April 22, 2020
The suspended account is now believed to have been operated by a Pakistani user, to make it appear as if high profile individuals in the Arab world are turning against India. According to a WION report, the account used to be called @pak_fauj.
But this is not the only such case. Tawab Ghorzang, former spokesperson for the Office of National Security Council of Afghanistan, called it “Twitter war from Pakistan against India”.
“This twitter war from Pak against India, using fake accounts impersonating the members of Arab royal families & spreading religious hatred, could be something new for Ind but not for us,” he wrote.
This twitter war from Pak against India, using fake accounts impersonating the members of Arab royal families & spreading religious hatred, could be something new for Ind but not for us. pic.twitter.com/HdAL5rvnVj
— Zia Ghorzang (@ZiaGhorzang) April 23, 2020
Another user, @Frontalfire, which “monitors LoK” and “Indo-Pak conflicts/Kashmir”, pointed to a number of such handles.
Pak ISI shud be held accountable by ME countries for:
•Creating fake Arab profiles with big names
•Abusing India from those handles
•Trying to create rift in Indo-Arab relations
•Let ME countries talk to Pak establishment@DrSJaishankar@MEAIndia pic.twitter.com/yGIe3K5714
— Frontalfire (@Frontalfire) April 22, 2020
Not limited to one account
The anti-India tweets from alleged Arab Twitter handles come after a user, @AlGhurair98, pulled out an old tweet from BJP MP Tejasvi Surya that read: “95% Arab women have never had an orgasm in the last few hundred years!”
On the day the @SayyidaMona handle was suspended, another Twitter account, also believed to be operated by Pakistanis, deleted itself. This account’s name was “Princess Noura bint Faisal” (@NouraAlSaud), and its bio read: “Member of ‘Al Saud’, Parody, Advisor at Ministry of Culture, Founder of KSA Fashion Community”. It had over 13,000 followers.
The fake account @NouraAlSaud had tweeted on 22 April against Surya’s old post about Arab women saying: “Indian Parliamentarian @Tejasvi_Surya posted something disgusting about Arab women. I demand from the Indian Prime Minister @narendramodi that racist Tejasvi Surya be Sacked immediately…”
The case of @KahlownYasin
There are possibly more Twitter accounts operated by Pakistanis posing as Arabs to attack India online, Ghorzang alluded in the tweet quoted above.
One of the handles he highlighted was @KahlownYasin, allegedly Pakistani but posing as an Arab.
The account @KahlownYasin stated that the user was based in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, but Friday afternoon, changed its handle to @002saifullah, as well as its profile picture and its location to Dubai, UAE.
One of this account’s tweets used a picture, purportedly from the Northeast Delhi violence in February, and said: “This is Delhi, once ruled by Muslims is being watched by helpless Muslim after Delhi pogrom.”
Another tweet called the Indian government a “fascist” one.
According to Devesh Kumar, researcher at Reuters Institute, @KahlownYasin was originally an account named @MobeenKahlown. Kumar also pointed to a LinkedIn profile of one Mobeen Yasin Kahlown’, who studied at Faisalabad in Pakistan, but is now working for a Saudi Arabian company. ThePrint could not verify this independently.
Kumar also said the Twitter account now known as @AHMAD_ALWAHIDAH used to be called @pakcomrade. This account, with over 22,000 followers, and purportedly based in Kuwait, tweeted: “Rss party hijacks democracy in india (sic).”
In another tweet, featuring a video of a man being attacked, it said “Rudely, these terrorists document their attacks on this defenseless man !!”, using the hashtag #Islamophobia_In_India”.
Rudely, these terrorists document their attacks on this defenseless man !!
This man’s voice must reach out to all media and international organizations to end these violations.
— أحمد الوهيدة (@AHMAD_ALWAHIDAH) April 23, 2020
Rules for parody and satire accounts
A Twitter spokesperson told ThePrint that the social media platform’s rules for parody and satire accounts are clear — the bio and the account name “should clearly indicate that the user is not affiliated with the subject of the account”, while “non-affiliation should be stated in a way that can be understood by the intended audience”.
However, in the case of the now-suspended @SayyidaMona account, it would have been impossible for a general user to know beyond doubt that it had no affiliation to the actual princess, since the fake account’s name and description was “H.H. Mona bint Fahd al Said”, with the bio reading “Princess, Doctor, Assistant V.C. for International Cooperation at Sultan Qaboos University”.
The fake profile carried the same designation that the princess carries in real life, according to the Sultan Qaboos University website.