Category: Uncategorized

Another Death in Bahrain Raises Accusations of Foul Play

Yesterday morning, 22 year old Abdullah Al Ajooz died in Nuwaidrat. The Ministry of the Interior reported that he fell when he tried to flee the scene of the arrest. Abdullah was arrested in 2013 and sentenced to life in prison after being accused of being involved in terrorist activities that included the injuring of three policemen. He escaped from the Dry Docks in 2016.  As is usual, the MOI did not feel it necessary to provide much detail,  leaving people to speculate as the actual cause of Abdullah’s death. It is important to note that Abdullah is the 4th escaped prisoner to have been killed after coming into contact with the MOI. The other three were allegedly killed at sea in suspicious circumstances. As many Bahrainis know, it is important always to question the official narrative in Bahrain, as the MOI have previously lied about systematic torture. This is not to say that the MOI do not to tell the truth, but there is little evidence to suggest there has been a change in policing or political culture. It is therefore somewhat perverse then to not interrogate the official narrative (unless of course you, like my Twitter trolls, take pleasure in the deaths of people).

Abdullah’s Death

Initial reports stated that Abdullah had been shot, with his aunt being recorded saying he had bullet wounds in the head and chest. This story seemed very unlikely when images of the body revealed no visible bullet wounds. From the images of his body though, there is clear head trauma on the front right hand side.

The below photos of the building show that he fellow from a relatively low height. The shrine on the ground is where the body was found.

The images would suggest he landed on his head. Some have highlighted that the height is relatively low (certainly no more than 10m), and seem surprised by the nature of the traumatic injuries. Ebrahim Sharif,  a prominent political figure in Bahrain , who saw the body before burial, asked whether he should have fallen on his head, not hands or feet.

In the below tweet, Ebrahim Sharif also noted that an attempt to flee would be unusual if the house was surrounded.

Yet a fall of two stories, or less than two metres, perhaps surprisingly, frequently results in traumatic head injuries. According to one study, heights from falls less than 10 metres actual often result in severe head injuries.

Severe head injuries most frequently occurred in falls from heights below 10 m and above 25 m, whereas in the group that fell from 10 to 25 m, few head injuries were seen and they rarely were the cause of death. This finding might indicate that the falling position is changing during a fall, and the landing position is often head first in lower heights.

Thus it is possible that an accidental fall could result in such head injuries. The caving of the skull would suggest he landed on it, and in falls, usually blunt injuries are ‘planar impact’, confined to one plane of the body. Wrist injuries are also common.

This, of course, does not discount accusations that Abdullah was pushed, or killed beforehand and thrown off the edge. Furthermore, if he was fleeing, it is less likely he fell by accident but was facing the direction of travel, which would imply a different course of fall – perhaps one where he could have corrected his flight and not landed on his head. Indeed, similar accusations have been raised before about young men being thrown off building by the police in Bahrain. The distance of the body from the building is perhaps inconclusive, as most bodies falling from between 5 and 10m will land about 1m – 2m from the building. However, if he was fleeing, and jumped, you would expect that distance to be longer than one or 2m (unless it was a controlled drop, in which case you’d expect to land on your feet – not head).It is also not clear from the MOI narrative where they were during the ‘fleeing’. Were they chasing him on the roof? If they say he fell, presumably they saw what happened, or are claiming to know what happened? A helicopter was heard, is there footage thats shows what happened? Is there any evidence to suggest a chase or struggle on the roof, blood, etc?

Cause of Death

It is not clear either about the quality of autopsy given in Bahrain. The security forces pressured the family to conduct the burial as early as possible, just over 24 hours from the rough time of death (which was in the early hours of the 20th).Determining whether he was pushed is difficult, although some signs of a homicide as opposed to an accident may include fresh grab marks on the upper inner arms according to the aforementioned study (Indicating he was pushed). Were these looked for by who examined body? It is not clear whether the autopsy accounted for this. According to one study on Bahrain , ‘This problem has been exacerbated by the fact that autopsies are not generally practised in the country unless there is suspicion of crime’. As suspicion of a crime is dictated by the MOI, who state quite clearly that the suspect fell, then one has to wonder whether to independence of the coroner can be affected. The death of Yousef Mowali demonstrates the importance of independent forensic reports.

Police said they found Mowali’s body floating in the water on January 13 in the Amwaj area, not far from his family’s home in Muharraq. A state doctor reported the cause of death as drowning and ruled out signs of violence.However, Al Jazeera has exclusively obtained a report from a second autopsy performed by an independent forensic pathologist that concludes Mowali was electrically tortured and unconscious when he drowned.

Death certificates also appear to produce a lot of erroneous results, according to this 2010 study in Bahrain. Furthermore, in Bahrain, death certificates in such cases are highly inconsistent . In 2015, the public prosecutor said Death Certificates only reported the physiological cause of death (As in Case with Ahmed Ismail). However, in the recent cases of the three killed at sea, only the proximate cause (gunshot wounds) was identified. Thus there seems to be wild inconsistency in stating what was the proximate, or immediate and determining causes of death. Thus a death certificate will not necessarily be useful.

Whatever happened, it is certainly unusual that the MOI’s confrontation with another fugitive has resulted in yet another death, making this the 8th death this year. Either way, there are important questions to be asked about the nature of the autopsy, and the events that happened under the cover of darkness, at a time when the government clearly feel able to get away with murder and/or extrajudicial killing.

*Many thanks to Fatima Halwachi for her help for the photos and general information on the ground

Burial of Those Allegedly Killed at Sea Adds to Suspicions of MOI’s Version of Events

Yesterday, the MOI supervised the burial of Redha Al Ghasra, Mustafa Yusif, and Mahmud Yusif. While the MOI usually release the bodies of those they kill to the families, including the three who were executed in January, they did not do so on this occasion. Instead, families were threatened and denied access to the burial site. It is not unknown for the MOI to prevent burial access to limit public disturbances, although it is not a reasonable justification as denial will also lead to similar disturbances. This has raised further suspicions about the true nature of their death (the MOI claimed they were shot at sea in an escape attempt…to Iran). Specifically, it has not allowed people to take photos or properly examine the bodies of those killed to help corroborate the MOI’s story.

Burial

There was also a report that those attempting to access the burial site were threatened with ‘repression’ if they did not leave.

Photo reportedly showing the burial site, surrounded by some close family and the security services

 Wounds

There were also detailed Tweets that presumably leaked out that documented the wounds on the bodies of the deceased.  Redha reportedly was shot three times in the head, as well as the chest and shoulder. Given the video of the shooting, which only showed the sec forces opening fire on one person, it is potentially surprising that the haphazard manner of firing resulted in three head shots.  The information on the bodies also suggests that Mahmood Yusif’s body in particular bore signs of torture, with numerous fractures and bruises. Mustafha Yusif’s body also reportedly had evidence of stab wounds in the neck, and shotgun pellet wounds on the legs/feet/. It is obviously difficult to determine without an independent forensic examination whether, for example, the wounds in the back of Mustafa Yusif were entry or exit wounds. However, if they are entry wounds, one must ask why he was shot in the back if the official version of events was that the group opened fire on the sec forces (Mustafa was also reportedly driving the boat).

deets

The account @Bahraindoctor posted a photo of Mahmud Yusif that materialised on the day of the shooting. As mentioned, Mahmud was reportedly not shot with live rounds, and according to this medical analysis, the bruising around the eyes is indicative of a non-recent skull injury. This potentially raises further questions of when and how he was killed.

Given that three of them were reportedly shot by the security forces in an exchange of gunfire, then it is interesting to explore why in particular one of those killed reportedly had no gunshot wounds. We still know that the MOI have videoed the event from three different angles, and so are sitting on information that would help clarify the sequence of events leading up to the alleged killing.

**Update**

The death certificates of the three killed were disseminated today (14 Feb). All deaths are attributed to gunshot sounds to various parts of the body. While there have been no independent verification of the wounds, the death certificates state he was killed by gunshots to the head and chest. If the above reports about Mahmud are correct, then he bore no notable gunshot wounds. None are clear from the alleged photo either. In such a well documented event, complete with videos, it not clear why each death certificate would say ‘about 5am’. Bear in mind the MOI in their statement said a ship was detected/intercepted (it is not clear) at 5.28am on the day of death.

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Mahmud

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Reda

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Mustafa

 

 

 

MOI’s Killing of Three Bahrainis Leaves Lots of Unanswered Questions

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Image from the MOI saying “planned route of the boat during the smuggling operation to Iran of the wanted men”

Today saw the shooting and killing of three Bahrainis on a boat. They were alleged by the Ministry of the Interior to be escaping to Iran. The three killed were part of a group of ten people who had reportedly escaped from Jaw prison in January 2017. The Ministry of the Interior wrote a lengthy account of events here. While it is possible that the MOI version of events was accurate, this post contends that there is little reason to believe that the information released to the public is adequate in allowing anyone to determine accurately the true nature of events.

Firstly, the pertinent information regarding this operation is as follows (from the MOI website).

The Ministry of Interior has named the deceased as Redha Abdulla Isa Al Ghasra, 29, a fugitive sentenced to 79 years and life imprisonment, Mahmood Yousif Habib Hasan Yahya, 22, and Mustafa Yousif Yousif Abd Ali, 35.

Those arrested have been named as Mohamed Jassim Mohamed Jassim Al Abid, 28, Hamid Jassim Mohamed Jassim Al Abid, 28, and Hasan Ali Mohamed Fardan Al Shakar, 22, all of whom were involved in the terrorist attack on Jau Prison and/or aiding and abetting fugitives. Others arrested included Hani Younis Yousif Ali, 21, Ahmed Ali Ahmed Yousif, 20, Ali Hasan Ali Saleh, 38, and Ahmed Isa Ahmed Isa Al Malali, 23, who were named as being involved in the aiding and abetting of fugitives and the concealment and movement of firearms and explosives.

The Coastguard authority said that items found on the vessel included a Kalashnikov assault rifle which was used to attack the coastguard vessels, a GPS system and satellite phone, ID cards, money and personal items.  The authority also noted that those arrested confirmed they were in contact with, and due to meet, accomplices in Iranian waters.

Importantly, a bizarre leaked video of the operation was posted by @Alwatan_live. This can be found below (I would suggest you watch it before continuing)

There is also a clearer, more complete version of the video that was shown in a press conference recorded by BTV. It included aerial footage which indicates helicopters were likely present.

The reasons the videos are bizarre is for a number of reasons, including:

  1. It is edited in a way that makes it seem rather dramatic, with multiple angles taking from multiple points of view
  2. It does not give a full or convincing account to corroborate the MOI version of events, with, for example, it only showing one man rising up from the fugitives’ boat with a gun  (three people were killed). It does not show who shot first.
  3. The multiple cuts to the video could suggest that the editing sequence was not a chronological account of what happened
  4. The fact multiple cameras (probably around three) were evidently used to create all the angles suggests there are numerous recordings of the event from different angles, all of which would give a better idea of what happened if left unedited.
  5. The initial leaked video was also a recording of a video playing on someone’s laptop – who edited it? Why was it edited?
  6. The audio is not clear

Some of the frames from the video are puzzling. See below.

peeps1

 

 

The above shot shows a smallish boat that presumably had around 10 people in it. The man circled on the right is, from the video, brandishing a gun. However, what is happening on the left. Is someone driving the boat? Is that someone sitting by the steering wheel? Have the others ducked down? (there are meant to be ten in the boat at this point). What is the high vis looking vest? Why is it raised in the picture, but not in the later ones? Is it a person? None of the video shows clear evidence of the faces of those on board. Following this scene, the police fire (fairly recklessly, but perhaps because they were taken by surprise if the video is legitimate).

shooting.jpg

At the end of the video you see the empty boat belonging to the fugitives. You do not get a clear view of where the victim was, as it would be in front of the steering wheel. If three people were shot thought maybe you’d expect to see blood? There is no blood. There is also an unusal shot of a policeman picking up what I presume is the assailants gun. The assailant cannot be scene, and again there is no blood.

gun.jpg

Gun, but no body (could be off screen nr bottom), and no blood

bloodless.jpg

At least one of the bodies should be at the top of the boat. All that is discernible is a blueish mass (could be a body). Again, no clear sign of blood suggesting three were shot. There is a high vis vest in the image, is it meant to be a body?

Bullet Path

The MOI also released other photographs showing scenes from the police operation. These included photos of a police boat with holes in.  As you can see from the first photo of the boat, the bullet holes appear to be on the left of the front of the boat. These, if the video is accurate, would presumably be exit wounds, as this boat, identifiable by the number reflected in the sea, pulled up on the right of the fugitive boat in the video. The shooter would have been on the opposite side of these holes (unless the photo is flipped). However, in another video you see the other side of the boat, where the bullets should have entered, but it doesn’t look like there are many (except one hole). Perhaps this is nothing, but it still is not clear from what people are being presented.

boatt

boats.jpg

other side.jpg

Note there is perhaps only one clear bullet hole on the apparent entry side, although this is not really conclusive from the photo given (there are also close ups of the white marks on the blue, that could potentially be bullet holes).

Procedures?

For what was clearly well resourced operation, it is unclear why the security services had to result in deadly force. There are at least three coastguard boats involved. In the above picture you can see two boats, and there is also the boat from which the photo is taken. While there are inevitably procedural questions, e.g. where was this procedure learned, was the engine disabled before the boat was approached?

Opportunity for Propaganda

The MOI were very quick to mention Iran. In addition to releasing a photo of a map stating that the smugglers intended to go to Iran, the MOI’s first tweet, before even announcing the deaths, was about Iran.

While this doesn’t undermine the potential veracity of the MOI’s statement, it does, along with the bizarrely slick editing of the video, point to a very well planned media event, one clearly designed to show a hard hitting security force ready to defend Bahrain from Iran. It also feeds into the regime’s discourse that Iran is behind the unrest, and the escape of the detainees from Jau.

Whether true or not, if I were a Bahraini (irrespective of political stance), I would want to see an unedited video, and a better account of events from the MOI. This would include a proper explanation of how such a well prepared group of Coasguard and security officers allowed the smugglers to get so far out to sea before killing them.

aerial.jpg

Aerial shot of the boats

Bahrain UK ‘There is so much we can do together’

ther2-2

Today the Bahraini regime executed three young men,  Sami Mushaima (42 yrs), Abbas Al-Samea (27), and Ali Abdulshaheed Al-Singace (21). The men had their death penalties upheld by the Court of Cassation, even though, in the words of Human Rights Watch, the ‘men’s convictions were based on retracted confessions and mired in allegations of serious torture’. They were accused of killing Emirate Policeman Tariq Al Shahi, who was policing Bahrain along with mostly Sunni security officers from Pakistan, Jordan, Yemen, Saudi, Syria etc.

The FCO’s response has been predictably muted, and follows on a trip to the Gulf by Theresa May, whose speech in front of British Troops emphasized the need for ‘stability’ (re status quo). Of the recent executions, Boris Johnson was entirely uncontroversial;

The UK is firmly opposed to the death penalty, and it is our longstanding position to oppose capital sentences in all circumstances. The Bahraini authorities are fully aware of our position and I have raised the issue with the Bahraini Government.

Given the ongoing British training of the Bahrain Security Services, it is important to question how complicit the UK are.

Pro-Saudi Spam Bots on Twitter try to Drown Out News of $1.5 Billion Loan to Egypt

Over the past few weeks, we have revealed that pro-Saudi bots, or spammers, on Twitter, pollute various hashtags with pro-Saudi, or anti-Iranian propaganda. Today they were very active on the Arabic hashtag #السعوديه_تدعم_مصر_مليار_دولار . Translated, this means Saudi supports Egypt to the tune of one billion dollars. The first Tweet on the hashtag, from @htksa, refers to a $1.5 dollar loan to Egypt from Saudi Arabia. The injection is designed to end a dollar shortage that is stifling economic growth in Egypt.The news and hashtag was first Tweeted by  Saudi Twitter (@htksa) channel, who provide updates not afraid to criticize Saudi policy.

Saudi’s generosity will presumably be something that Saudi authorities do not wish to laud. With a fiscal crisis looming and a war in Yemen, many Saudis will perhaps object to the fact $1.5 billion is going abroad, even if it is a loan. As you can see from these few tweets, initial responses before the hashtag was drowned out by bots were fairly critical, with people asking why, what with unemployment and a lack of services, money was being sent abroad.

saudi.jpg

Summary and overview of Data

The original Tweet from @htksa occurred around 8.46pm on 25th July. The sample I extracted began about 6.36 pm on 26th July, and finished at about 8.36 pm UK time. In this two hour window, which obviously began long after the original Tweet was posted, the API pulled 11, 847 Tweets. Of these Tweets, 10673 were almost certainly from bot spam accounts. That works out as about 90.1 % (1dp) of them. In terms of statistics, using the unique function in Google Sheets we can see that the 10673 Tweets came from approximately 1711 bot/spammer accounts. You can view the data here, or download it here.

The Accounts

As with previous exercises, the method here relies on discerning patterns in the data that indicate unusual activity. In terms of the accounts themselves, the following patterns exist.

  • The accounts are created across a small range of dates, very unusual considering the large volume of accounts (one would expect if the accounts were human or ‘genuine’, that they would  be created on random days, giving little in the way of a pattern). In 2014, accounts were created on consecutive days in April, May and June. In 2015, accounts were created only in February and March 2015. In 2016, the accounts sampled were only created in January and February. To put this into perspective, around 994 individual spam accounts in this sample were setup between between the 2nd and 19th February 2016. That’s around 58 accounts per day on average.
  • They are all launched from Tweet Deck.
  • As with previous examples, only accounts that were created in 2016 have full bios and banner photos. Ones created before that have no bio, and just a profile picture. The bios are generic, as are the profile pictures, which contain images harvested (presumably) from social media (See Brian Whitaker’s post). Banner images range from the random, to the bizarre, such as a  picture of freshly cut oranges, or some guy on a bike. My new favourite is the account below, of a guy who clearly just wants love. (He actually looks a lot like a Sudanese friend of mine)

    love

  • Of the over 1700 accounts in the sample, all follow between 25 and 79 people, with the exception of about 5, which follow 1 or zero people (this may be a glitch if they are programmed). Older accounts actually follow less people.
  • All of the accounts follow the same group of core people, which include, the satellite channel Saudi 24; and also certain local Saudi Twitter sites. I emphasize the term ‘local’ as these Twitter sites seem to spam local hashtags (such as Dammam and Qatif), presumably to drown out local news in these areas. (I will write more on these in a new post)
  • There is a correlation between what day the account was created, and how many Tweets it has produced. Accounts created on 19th February, for example, have about 900 Tweets, accounts on the 6th February (picked at random) have about 1,700 tweets, accounts created on 14th June 2014 (again, picked at random) have around 4000 – 4,500 Tweets etc. The older accounts tend to have a larger discrepancy in Tweet volume, presumably due to some automation variables that have accumulated over a longer time?

The Tweets

Other patterns occur in the contents of the Tweets. In the below table, if you look at the left hand column, you will see that each of the accounts tweets numerous times, often about seven or eight times per sample. As with before, during this time of high intensity Tweeting, the tweets often occur in four or five second intervals, with intermittent gaps. Take @3abdoElfasely for example (the first in the list); the first three tweets are spread four/5 seconds apart. The fourth tweet occurs about 21 minutes and 39 seconds later. Following another 21 minutes and 21 seconds later, @3abdoElfasely tweets again (22:59:01). He then tweets two more tweets at intervals of 4 seconds.

This pattern is more or less followed by @3abodelsabhin. With the exception of the first Tweet recorded, the other six tweets are fired out in two, three tweet pairs. Within each set of three, the tweets are four seconds apart. If you look at the time stamps of the other tweets in the below table, you will see similar patterns.

7/26/2016 22:15:51 @3abdoElfasely عبدالغني الفصيلي سوالف رياضية : نقاش الذايدي و جستنيه حول ( سامي الجابر و ماجد عبدالله )https://t.co/YdUtrzdKHe #السعوديه_تدعم_مصر_مليار_دولار
7/26/2016 22:15:55 @3abdoElfasely عبدالغني الفصيلي سوالف رياضية مع احمد العجلان ( سعود الصرامي وابراهيم بن ناهض ومحمد الذايدي ) https://t.co/M6S2CjzrAz #السعوديه_تدعم_مصر_مليار_دولار
7/26/2016 22:16:00 @3abdoElfasely عبدالغني الفصيلي سعود الصرامي : الاستئناف حق مشروع لنادي المجزل .. وعليهم القتال الي اخر ثانيه https://t.co/50gYgcWUeI #السعوديه_تدعم_مصر_مليار_دولار
7/26/2016 22:37:39 @3abdoElfasely عبدالغني الفصيلي جستنيه: هدف “ماجد عبدالله” في الصين يساوي جميع اهداف “سامي الجابر” و كل من لعب كرة https://t.co/wmIolrvKVy #السعوديه_تدعم_مصر_مليار_دولار
7/26/2016 22:59:01 @3abdoElfasely عبدالغني الفصيلي محمد الذايدي: هدف هدف “سامي الجابر” في تونس بتاريخ “ماجد عبدالله” كله https://t.co/uzMHAZXMZZ #السعوديه_تدعم_مصر_مليار_دولار
7/26/2016 22:59:06 @3abdoElfasely عبدالغني الفصيلي سعود الصرامي: قضية المجزل قانونياً الى الان لم تنتهي https://t.co/Nxzc1kaUKG #السعوديه_تدعم_مصر_مليار_دولار
7/26/2016 22:59:10 @3abdoElfasely عبدالغني الفصيلي بن ناهض:لو ان لجنة القيم والاخلاق من ضمن اللجان بالاتحاد السعودي ما كان حدث كل هذا https://t.co/fcXxDJK7Jo #السعوديه_تدعم_مصر_مليار_دولار
7/26/2016 22:10:06 @3abodelsabhin عبود السبيهين سعود الصرامي: قضية المجزل قانونياً الى الان لم تنتهي https://t.co/b2Plg3WuIY #السعوديه_تدعم_مصر_مليار_دولار
7/26/2016 22:34:46 @3abodelsabhin عبود السبيهين سوالف رياضية : مداخلة هاتفية مع “حمد العثمان” امين عام نادي المجزل سابقاً https://t.co/nH2y938rHl #السعوديه_تدعم_مصر_مليار_دولار
7/26/2016 22:34:50 @3abodelsabhin عبود السبيهين محمد الذايدي:الان يجب ان نفعل دور لجنة الاخلاق و القيم https://t.co/2EnVEUwsZH #السعوديه_تدعم_مصر_مليار_دولار
7/26/2016 22:34:54 @3abodelsabhin عبود السبيهين سعود الصرامي: المجزل لم يكسب الاستئناف https://t.co/BgCxRSkmcv #السعوديه_تدعم_مصر_مليار_دولار
7/26/2016 22:59:28 @3abodelsabhin عبود السبيهين محمد الذايدي :هناك تسعيرة للاعبين 30 الف للبلنتي و 50 الف لطرد https://t.co/AyVJtzSKrA #السعوديه_تدعم_مصر_مليار_دولار
7/26/2016 22:59:32 @3abodelsabhin عبود السبيهين دباس الدوسري يجب ان لا تتدخل لجنة الاحتراف في تعاقدات الاندية الجديدة https://t.co/vSXE8WGAmZ #السعوديه_تدعم_مصر_مليار_دولار
7/26/2016 22:59:36 @3abodelsabhin عبود السبيهين دباس الدوسري الهلال لديه مشكلة في عقد سلمان الفرج https://t.co/H43B4miOEE #السعوديه_تدعم_مصر_مليار_دولار
7/26/2016 22:10:22 @3adelelmreshed عادل المريشد محمد الذايدي :هناك تسعيرة للاعبين 30 الف للبلنتي و 50 الف لطرد https://t.co/qgNzQxjCKu #السعوديه_تدعم_مصر_مليار_دولار
7/26/2016 22:10:26 @3adelelmreshed عادل المريشد دباس الدوسري يجب ان لا تتدخل لجنة الاحتراف في تعاقدات الاندية الجديدة https://t.co/AN0VFRQYNL #السعوديه_تدعم_مصر_مليار_دولار
7/26/2016 22:10:30 @3adelelmreshed عادل المريشد دباس الدوسري الهلال لديه مشكلة في عقد سلمان الفرج https://t.co/1kdsX6oBTd #السعوديه_تدعم_مصر_مليار_دولار
7/26/2016 22:35:02 @3adelelmreshed عادل المريشد جاسم الحربي انا اؤيد فكرة حضور العنصر النسائي لمباريات كرة القدمhttps://t.co/NrzkSxLyUq #السعوديه_تدعم_مصر_مليار_دولار
7/26/2016 22:35:06 @3adelelmreshed عادل المريشد معجب: تكريم حكم داخل مقر نادي ما يعتبر مصيبة https://t.co/qtiglKY5yL #السعوديه_تدعم_مصر_مليار_دولار
7/26/2016 22:35:11 @3adelelmreshed عادل المريشد مداخلة هاتفية مع “ماجد الفهمي” مدير المركز الاعلامي و المتحدث الرسمي بالنادي الأهلي🌴 https://t.co/hVw1tQYzXB #السعوديه_تدعم_مصر_مليار_دولار
7/26/2016 22:59:44 @3adelelmreshed عادل المريشد الحصاد الرياضي مع محمد الشهراني🌴 ( فؤاد انور و نايف الروقي )https://t.co/rJOv3dWfvR … #السعوديه_تدعم_مصر_مليار_دولار
7/26/2016 22:59:48 @3adelelmreshed عادل المريشد مداخلة هاتفية مع “عبدالرحمن الجروان” حكم دولي سابق و مقيم حكام مباراة المجزل و الجيل🌴 https://t.co/TXpm9zRgkv #السعوديه_تدعم_مصر_مليار_دولار
7/26/2016 22:59:52 @3adelelmreshed عادل المريشد سوالف رياضية مع احمد العجلان🌴 ( سعود الصرامي وابراهيم بن ناهض وعدنان جستنيه ) https://t.co/u6PPKvPJDR #السعوديه_تدعم_مصر_مليار_دولار
7/26/2016 22:38:55 @3alawyalhaday21 3alawyalhaday22 سعود الصرامي : الاستئناف حق مشروع لنادي المجزل .. وعليهم القتال الي اخر ثانيه https://t.co/9RXw1P2Hvi #السعوديه_تدعم_مصر_مليار_دولار
7/26/2016 22:38:59 @3alawyalhaday21 3alawyalhaday22 جستنيه: انصح الاستاذ “خالد البابطين” البعد عن المحاماة في المجال الرياضي https://t.co/gy94PxSVD9 #السعوديه_تدعم_مصر_مليار_دولار
7/26/2016 22:39:02 @3alawyalhaday21 3alawyalhaday22 جستنيه: هدف “ماجد عبدالله” في الصين يساوي جميع اهداف “سامي الجابر” و كل من لعب كرة https://t.co/QqXYZurZWW #السعوديه_تدعم_مصر_مليار_دولار
7/26/2016 22:39:10 @3alawyalhaday21 3alawyalhaday22 محمد الذايدي: هدف هدف “سامي الجابر” في تونس بتاريخ “ماجد عبدالله” كله https://t.co/2XYxjdxx5i #السعوديه_تدعم_مصر_مليار_دولار
7/26/2016 22:39:16 @3alawyalshalho1 3alawyalshalhob سعود الصرامي: قضية المجزل قانونياً الى الان لم تنتهي https://t.co/JECu5dokTb #السعوديه_تدعم_مصر_مليار_دولار
7/26/2016 22:39:22 @3alawyalshalho1 3alawyalshalhob سوالف رياضية : مداخلة هاتفية مع “حمد العثمان” امين عام نادي المجزل سابقاً https://t.co/A7sfL26H8t #السعوديه_تدعم_مصر_مليار_دولار
7/26/2016 22:39:29 @3alawyalshalho1 3alawyalshalhob محمد الذايدي:الان يجب ان نفعل دور لجنة الاخلاق و القيم https://t.co/3cKgk0imYr #السعوديه_تدعم_مصر_مليار_دولار
7/26/2016 22:39:36 @3alianalmhall1 3alianalmhall محمد الذايدي:الان يجب ان نفعل دور لجنة الاخلاق و القيم https://t.co/o10x2UC5Px #السعوديه_تدعم_مصر_مليار_دولار
7/26/2016 22:39:40 @3alianalmhall1 3alianalmhall سعود الصرامي: المجزل لم يكسب الاستئناف https://t.co/VqHTBaiaIy #السعوديه_تدعم_مصر_مليار_دولار

Of the 10673 Tweets, there are only 30 original/unique Tweets. The accounts repeat the same tweets, over and over and over. All the tweets contain video links to the Saudi satellite sports channel Saudi 24. This was the same as previous studies, where many of the accounts posted links to content on the news wing of Saudi 24. None of the Tweets actual concern the Egypt deal, suggesting they are trying to drown out the issue, rather than engage on it. Below is the break down of the 30 different tweets.

Volume Content
168 احمد الشمراني بعض الإعلاميين يظهر في التلفاز وهو لم يكتب عاموداً صحفياً إطلاقاً https://t.co/00p9lH0OhO #السعوديه_تدعم_مصر_مليار_دولار
315 الحصاد الرياضي مع محمد الشهراني ( فؤاد انور و نايف الروقي )https://t.co/nkncwzXHV3 … #السعوديه_تدعم_مصر_مليار_دولار
565 بن ناهض:لو ان لجنة القيم والاخلاق من ضمن اللجان بالاتحاد السعودي ما كان حدث كل هذا https://t.co/zR4tyhi0Cm #السعوديه_تدعم_مصر_مليار_دولار
386 جاسم الحربي انا اؤيد فكرة حضور العنصر النسائي لمباريات كرة القدم????https://t.co/w2ZefnZjv7 #السعوديه_تدعم_مصر_مليار_دولار
491 جستنيه: انصح الاستاذ “خالد البابطين” البعد عن المحاماة في المجال الرياضي🌴 https://t.co/zUb7O5UIf9 #السعوديه_تدعم_مصر_مليار_دولار
275 جستنيه: هدف “ماجد عبدالله” في الصين يساوي جميع اهداف “سامي الجابر” و كل من لعب كرة https://t.co/zYkP0jDX2Y #السعوديه_تدعم_مصر_مليار_دولار
301 دباس الدوسري الهلال لديه مشكلة في عقد سلمان الفرج https://t.co/ZPWSaGUojC #السعوديه_تدعم_مصر_مليار_دولار
298 دباس الدوسري يجب ان لا تتدخل لجنة الاحتراف في تعاقدات الاندية الجديدة https://t.co/zV3f6TAWaO #السعوديه_تدعم_مصر_مليار_دولار
286 سعود الصرامي : الاستئناف حق مشروع لنادي المجزل .. وعليهم القتال الي اخر ثانيه🌴 https://t.co/Zt5wKH98rz #السعوديه_تدعم_مصر_مليار_دولار
568 سعود الصرامي: المجزل لم يكسب الاستئناف🇸🇦 https://t.co/ztL2P085n5 #السعوديه_تدعم_مصر_مليار_دولار
583 سعود الصرامي: قضية المجزل قانونياً الى الان لم تنتهي🇸🇦 https://t.co/ZrMnQq9vCH #السعوديه_تدعم_مصر_مليار_دولار
551 سوالف رياضية : مداخلة هاتفية مع “حمد العثمان” امين عام نادي المجزل سابقاً🇸🇦 https://t.co/Ztw7ghvYF2 #السعوديه_تدعم_مصر_مليار_دولار
498 سوالف رياضية : نقاش الذايدي و جستنيه حول🌴 ( سامي الجابر و ماجد عبدالله )https://t.co/YZsS9J4yJL #السعوديه_تدعم_مصر_مليار_دولار
490 سوالف رياضية مع احمد العجلان🌴 ( سعود الصرامي وابراهيم بن ناهض وعدنان جستنيه ) https://t.co/ZYw7hF1tpF #السعوديه_تدعم_مصر_مليار_دولار
165 عبدالكريم الجاسرلقناة 24: مبدأ عمر المهنا أصرخ تفلح وبعض الأندية تأخذ هل من مزيد https://t.co/ZZIrzSnDAX #السعوديه_تدعم_مصر_مليار_دولار
426 عدنان جستنيه: بيان الاتحاد السعودي بقضية نادي المجزل يحتاج ليكون أكثر شفافية🇸🇦 https://t.co/zkGkw8nngT #السعوديه_تدعم_مصر_مليار_دولار
156 فوازالشريف لقناة 24 الرياضبة :الإعلام الرياضي مهنة لمن لامهنة له https://t.co/ZwSB6n9QFC #السعوديه_تدعم_مصر_مليار_دولار
169 فيديو قناة 24 سعودي : ملتقى التخصصات الرابع https://t.co/zTmHtmCNGZ #السعوديه_تدعم_مصر_مليار_دولار
174 فيصل الجفن لقناة 24 الرياضية: الذي حصل ل فهد المطوع بصمة عار في جبين الرائد https://t.co/zzDSuDNDTJ #السعوديه_تدعم_مصر_مليار_دولار
492 قناة 24 سعودي :34 دوته وتأثيرها الاقتصادي على العالم https://t.co/zs2weLeZKS #السعوديه_تدعم_مصر_مليار_دولار
166 قناة 24 سعودي … ردود الأفعال على رؤية السعودية 2030 https://t.co/Zy6iqw3KMI #السعوديه_تدعم_مصر_مليار_دولار
171 قناة 24 سعودي… الحديث في عمق الدورات التدريبية https://t.co/ZXhNq5kZJv #السعوديه_تدعم_مصر_مليار_دولار
799 محمد الذايدي: كان من الممكن اسقاط الاتحاد السعودي من قبل الهيئة الرياضية🇸🇦 https://t.co/ZTED7LKvKD #السعوديه_تدعم_مصر_مليار_دولار
462 محمد الذايدي: لا يوجد لاعب في قارة آسيا مثل الكابتن “سامي الجابر”🌴 https://t.co/ZY6CsRbqze #السعوديه_تدعم_مصر_مليار_دولار
460 محمد الذايدي: هدف هدف “سامي الجابر” في تونس بتاريخ “ماجد عبدالله” كله🇸🇦 https://t.co/zWVrnMtwro #السعوديه_تدعم_مصر_مليار_دولار
308 محمد الذايدي:الان يجب ان نفعل دور لجنة الاخلاق و القيم https://t.co/zVKGRbfHT9 #السعوديه_تدعم_مصر_مليار_دولار
290 محمد الذايدي:الان يجب ان نفعل دور لجنة الاخلاق وان تكون الهيئة هيئة رقابية🇸🇦 https://t.co/zWl5MYdW5B #السعوديه_تدعم_مصر_مليار_دولار
189 مداخلة هاتفية مع “عبدالرحمن الجروان” حكم دولي سابق و مقيم حكام مباراة المجزل و الجيل🌴 https://t.co/zFx68CIiqL #السعوديه_تدعم_مصر_مليار_دولار
309 مداخلة هاتفية مع “ماجد الفهمي” مدير المركز الاعلامي و المتحدث الرسمي بالنادي الاهليhttps://t.co/ZTsDOLBIXI #السعوديه_تدعم_مصر_مليار_دولار
251 معجب: تكريم حكم داخل مقر نادي ما يعتبر مصيبة https://t.co/zxkQ86lGfK #السعوديه_تدعم_مصر_مليار_دولار

Conclusion

The above post isn’t as detailed as usual, but if you look at my previous posts you will gain a more thorough understand of how these bots operate. These are the same bots as have been examined in previous posts. I.e. they appear to have been set up by the same group of people, as their fingerprints match. If you scroll down one of these accounts far enough you will see that the same accounts Tweeting about the Egyptian deal, were tweeting about the removal of Isa Qassim’s citizenship, or Yemen (See this guy for example).

Obviously some human agency must be required to re-orientate accounts to pollute new hashtags, yet their dominant setting seems to reflect Saudi government policy. When they are not tweeting against Iran, or justifying the draconian decisions of the Bahrain government, they are praising the Saudi government and royal family (same same la?). Obviously this suggests that the bots are based in Saudi, which was probably obvious already.

We still do not know who is behind this. Nonetheless, it seems that a certain group, or institution, or agency, is working to drown out information that may cause anger and unrest in Saudi Arabia. This is in addition to promoting sectarianism, or the idea that Iran is behind all the regions ills. Yet with this latest study, we can deduce that the bots change their hashtag targets to drown out issues as they arise, suggesting it is an ongoing and dynamic, if not crude, pro-Saudi project.

Always happy to answer questions, either on Twitter or the blog.

 

A Former Durham Tutor’s View on Durham’s Tuition Fee Increase

I cringed when I saw that Durham University had preemptively advertised its undergraduate fees for 2016/17 at £9250 – currently 250 above the national maximum limit. I cringed for a number of reasons, not limited to, but including; I am an alumnus of Durham University, I have personal experience of teaching there, and since I started my undergraduate only 12 years ago, university fees have gone up 900%. Turns out you can put a price on the ‘Durham Difference’, which works out as about £250.

The proposed changes, to be activated if the Higher Education Bill passes, will mean that universities that are deemed to ‘meet expectations’ by the Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF) can raise tuition prices in line with inflation. Roughly speaking, this means these universities can raise their fees from £9000 to £9250. However, the law (which probably will pass), has not been passed yet. The bill would put into law a body called the Office for Students, who according to the explanatory notes, can then implement the TEF.  The Times Higher noted too that ‘The bill does not deal with the TEF, which does not require legislation to be implemented at institutional level, other than to give the OfS powers over the exercise’.

It therefore seems clear that Durham, Kent, and Royal Holloway Universities are making assumptions that the law will be passed. Durham have already sought advice from the  Department for Business Innovation & Skills about whether they  satisfy the requirements of the TEF. As Durham University say on their website ‘Durham University has received confirmation from the Department for Business Innovation & Skills that we meet the first year expectations of the TEF’. Personally though, I do not understand why, if the Bill creates the OfS, and the OfS are to implement the framework, the Department for Business Innovation and Skills are already pre-empting the work of a body who do not, as yet, exist by law. The fact that they provided Durham University with information that has not been formalised into law is perhaps a reflection of the motives of not just Durham, but the Department for Business Innovation and Skills, who clearly want to set the ball rolling on this project. Certainly, framing the increase as a ‘fait accompli’ would indicate that, although it also indicates a healthy disrespect for parliament and the law-making process.

Despite the seeming mess of all this, the TEF is no secret. The Times Higher Education magazine ran a piece in which they measured how universities would perform *if* the TEF were to be implemented. Ironically, of the three Universities (Durham, Holloway, and Kent), that rushed to advertise their tuition fee increases, only Kent would actually finish in the top ten of the benchmarked TEF rankings. Thus the most eager to increase their fees are certainly not the best in terms of teaching reputation. To be fair, I guess the TEF is only concerned with institutions that ‘meet expectations’. Hopefully, if they are suitably low, then everyone can raise tuition fees. Money all round (for the universities that is)!

I say that knowing full well I taught at Durham. I should also add that myself, and some other colleagues (I do not wish to universalise this), taught and received good feedback from students, but rarely received acknowledgement by the department or university. I personally had very poor experiences lobbying for reasonable changes in remuneration policy. Indeed, most who mark essays and give feedback recognize that if this is to be done to a good standard, then the time required would mean that most of us would be receiving less than the minimum wage. However, the TEF clearly does not consider the actually arbitrary nature of how teaching is conducted. Safe to say, a lot of it is done by overworked and underpaid PhD students who receive little acknowledgement. As one Durham student said when asked what she would say to prospective freshers, ‘ I will also mention first year is largely taught by PhD students on casualised teaching contracts, something the university neglects to mention’. Fortunately for students, myself and most PhD students I know, care deeply about their students, and will feel obligated to do the best for them. Clearly though, the Office for Students is certainly not for Research Students.

Durham University’s announcement was framed by them as an act of due diligence and benevolence; they were simply fulfilling their obligations under the Competition and Markets Authority legislation’, whereby they are ‘required to provide comprehensive and transparent information to applicants, including in relation to fees, on the University website and at pre-application Open Days (which in our case were held in June 2016)’. So really, Durham were just doing everyone a favour, by managing their expectations and making sure no one felt conned. Obviously it would be ludicrous to keep fees at £9000 for say, another year, while the law has time to actually be passed. Maybe Durham don’t realise that the increase is not compulsory?

Naturally Durham’s chomping at the bit to raise fees fits in with their reputation as a University with a poor reputation for attracting poorer students. However, it probably better reflects their desperation to make more money. Recently, I was involved, along with a number of student colleagues, in protesting at the increase of college accommodation fees (much of which goes on capital expenditure), and international student fees. As you can see, this debate is still ongoing. Although the university ‘listened’ to students, I do not think they listened. In fact, from my perspective, the outcome of the discussions actually caused an immediate increase in accommodation prices for students living at one particular college, because it was deemed unfair that they weren’t paying as much as other postgraduates in other colleges. Essentially, universally higher prices were better than universally reasonable ones. In other words, Durham needs the money.

The recent announcement just illustrates that universities, given the choice, and in some cases, no option, will keep raising their fees to the detriment of both poor and middle income students. From a personal and political perspective, I find this alarming. My own experience in student politics, and of the past ten years, illustrates that students, certainly at the institutional level, are consulted, but only in the sense that they are ‘conned’ and ‘insulted’ in one super-efficient go. I do not wish to be facetious, but it would certainly seem that consultation with students to many institutions is merely part of a checklist, and not a process designed to seriously consider the position of students on topics that will impact their life chances. Either way, in the immortal words of the Offspring, ‘the kids aren’t alright’.

 

 

 

 

 

Are Twitter Bots on Yemen and Bahrain Hashtags linked to News Broadcaster Saudi 24?

Over the past few weeks, investigations published on this blog have revealed that thousands of apparently automated bot accounts on Twitter have been polluting the Bahrain hashtag with sectarian Tweets. On some days, these sectarian bots accounted for over 50% of the Tweets on the Bahrain hashtag. Despite Twitter suspending upward of 1800 accounts, the bots still exist. In my latest calculations approximately 16279 Tweets out of 51194 downloaded from the API between 3 – 11 July 2016 were automated. The tweets sampled were produced by approximately 9167 unique accounts. Of these unique accounts, approximately 1886 are unique bot accounts. Therefore from this sample, 32% (3sf) of Tweets on the Bahrain hashtag were from automated accounts, which make up approximately 21% of the total accounts in the sample. Although the API search does not reveal all Tweets on the hashtag, (potentially only 1% of all Tweets), it gives an idea of the scale of the operation.

Yemen

This morning, some fellow Tweeps alerted me to the use of similar bots on the #Yemen hashtag, so I did some preliminary tests. Sure enough, the same bots on the #Bahrain hashtag are using the Yemen hashtag to promote the idea of Iranian influence in Yemen, a common trope in Gulf politics. The accounts are indeed the same, and some have changed from Tweeting about Bahrain to tweeting about Yemen. Many still continue to tweet on the #Bahrain hashtag. The most common Tweets on the Yemen hashtag are;

العوين:مجئ الخوميني هو بداية الشر و اشعال الحروب في المنطقة https://t.co/wkYWbGT3eG … #الشيخ_عيسي_قاسم #ايران #Iran #حزب_الله #yemen #Iraq

(translation: The appearance of Khomeini was the beginning of evil and the spread of wars in the region #Shaykh_Isa_Qasim, #Hezbollah, #Yemen, #Iraq, #Iran

توجيهات خادم الحرمين بايصال رسالة المملكة للعالم كله ومنها برنامج الإمامة في الخارج https://t.co/QZif2VH3PP … #ايران #Iran #حزب_الله #yemen  (The custodian of the holy mosques sends a message to the whole world….)

Of the 11,541 Tweets pulled from the Twitter API over an approximately 48 hour period, around 2,493 appear to be from bot accounts. In the sample, there were approximately 1172 individual bot accounts engaged in polluting the Yemen hashtag with the above tweets. You can see the spreadsheet data here. I have used the same methodology as in previous posts, but have not got into it here (happy to answer questions though)

The role of Saudi24?

What is interesting about virtually all the videos analysed on the #Bahrain and Yemen hashtag is that they contain links almost exclusively to the YouTube channel Saudi 24. Saudi 24 is a satellite channel that I am still trying to find more information on. Their Twitter account was set up in July 2012, before the automated Twitter activated seemed to begin. Their live link can be found here. Their website can be found here. The email address given on their Twitter bio is Info@saudi24.tv. They joined YouTube in January 2015, after many of the bot account had been created (On Youtube they have 12,501 subscribers and over 3,743,929 views ). This appears to be the Twitter account of the main presenter, Mohammad Rashid. Their rhetoric seems loosely aligned with state rhetoric. They are anti Islamic State, but antagonistic towards Iran, and sectarian towards the Shia. At the moment the link is speculative, but it does seem unusual that the bots should almost exclusively choose news clips from Saudi 24, when there are plenty to choose from that broadcast a particularly anti-Shia, anti-Iran, sectarian agenda.