Report from Oman
By Iman Said
I did not see this coming, though I am fully aware of the unemployment rate, high prices, low salaries, lack of freedom of speech and corruption that has been flowing in the veins of the Sultanate. Omani people have watched the uprisings in the Arab world, and they have learned a valuable lesson from the Tunisian and Egyptian revolutions. The power of the people is so great that it can change the unbearable reality. According to the Oman News Agency, what happened yesterday and what is happening today all over Oman is a type of ‘vandalism’ though the protestors were chanting: “selmeyyah” (peaceful protests) all the time.
Let’s start from the very beginning. About 300 protestors gathered on Saturday in the Globe roundabout in Suhar, or what is known now as the ‘Reform Square’, to demand more political and economic reforms. This comes after the decrees issued by the Sultan and which did not meet the protestors’ demands for change. The result was that the police arrested 41 people to spread fear among the others. Of course that did not happen. The protestors were more determined to continue with their peaceful protests.
If we have learned anything from the revolts that have spread all over the Arab world, it is that using violence against the protestors makes them more united and determined to get what they came for. That is why thousands of protestors gathered the next day all over the country to make their voices heard. What oppressors have not learned yet is ‘what does not kill me makes me stronger’. The police used force and tear gas to abort the protests. Two were martyred as a result and eight were injured.
At that time, people in Salalah and Muscat were gathering to support their brothers in Suhar. Their demands this time were for the chief of the Royal Omani Police to be brought to trial for the deaths of the two people and for the corruption in the police department that has spread in the last few years.
The Sultan has issued a number of decrees and gave his orders to create more than 50,000 jobs and allocate salaries for the unemployed. More reforms are to be made in the next 24 hours as I heard. We will wait and see.
Some of the protestors’ demands are:
1. To guarantee freedom of speech and of the press in the Sultanate.
2. To make changes in the cabinet.
3. To give the Shura Council (consultative Council) a legislative power.
4. To cancel Basic Education and change the school curriculum.
5. To bring corrupt officials to justice.
I am still in denial after what happened today. I could never have imagined the kind of police state our country has become. And I am not the only one in denial. Most of those whom I talked to are either misled by the media or take no side in this very sensitive issue. But at such times we must be decisive. There is no in-between kind of attitude.