An eye for an eye only ends up making the whole world blind

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If I didn’t scout the news headlines and browse local blogs, I would probably have no idea that history is being made in Oman right this moment. Out and about all is as usual, the weekend has come and gone and another working week is now upon us. Many are holding their breath, eager to see what the next few days will bring. Muscat has witnessed peaceful demonstrations throughout last week. A rally was held opposite Majlis Al Shura headquarters a few days ago and then again just yesterday. The demonstrations were noted in all corners of Oman, from Salalah to Sohar, the latest reported today morning in Ibri. Muscat Daily reports that the teachers of Seeb schools have gone on strike with the aim of bringing attention to the much needed reforms in the educational system of The Sultanate. Their demands also include shortening the school day for students, which currently ends at 1:45pm. The Ministry of Education has already met with many of the teachers on strike to attempt to establish better communication channels.
Sohar on the other hand has seen a pleasant turn of events, the city is now calm and peace prevails. The protestors arrested due to violent clashes earlier have now been released and no further outbreaks of hooliganism have occurred. I have seen very gruesome images of burning buildings, trucks and vandalized property- images that did not register with me those that could have occurred in Oman. On Tuesday the 1st of March I was also witness to numerous cars decorated with Omani flags and his Majesty’s images patrolling the Shatti area with their hazard lights on, honking as they made their way through the traffic.
Today morning Times of Oman carried an article that nicely outlines the main demands of the nations:

Protestors in Muscat are demanding:

  • -Political reforms
  • -Change in the constitution
  • -Greater transparency and accountability

Protestors in Sohar and other towns want:

  • More jobs
  • Higher Pay
  • Free housing for the poor
  • Marriage funds to help young people get married
Flipping through the local newspapers one can come across THOUSANDS of jobs being advertised. The Renaissance Group has announced vacancies for waiters, cleaners, laundry men and etc. Likewise, The Zubair Group has advertised 1,300 vacancies in various sections in response to His Majesty’s promise of establishing 50,000 jobs for job seekers in the Sultanate. ROP has announced jobs for 10,000 citizens, some will be trained prior to joining the forces whilst others will be allocated to the promised 15,000 vacancies within the private sector.
It seems as though the whole country is deeply moved by His Majesty’s assertiveness and the desire to fulfill the demands of his people. Never before have measures been taken so swiftly and effectively to unite a nation by their leader. I can only wish for others to follow in these footsteps.

Muscat caught in the whirlwind

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As of 4 pm this afternoon protestors have gathered in front of Majlis A Shura which is located in front of Muscat International Airport, just 15 minutes from the city center, and only 10 minutes from where I live. These are meant to be peaceful and are due to be in support for the government and against the protests that are happening in Sohar right this instant.

Bad news travels fast and the story has currently reached http://www.google.com/ig and CNN has also carried a very blunt report on the subject.

The highway to Sohar where demonstrations rage has been closed off making it impossible to get in or out by road. Dozens of cars and trucks remain trapped and as a result (see images below) are being violated. Earlier this morning we heard that Bank Muscat in Sohar has also been set on fire and ATM machines have been vandalized. I cannot confirm this right now, but the source is very trusted.

HM Sultan Qaboos is due to give a speech today at 7pm and we are all holding are breath for it. Local newspapers are reporting that up to 8 people have died in the clashes in Sohar and over 50 are currently injured.

Muscat Mutterings is constantly updating on the situation here.

However, I must stress that it remains peaceful in Muscat and we are safe.

A summary of events in Sohar

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Since rumors are circulating at large in Muscat it is somewhat difficult to get the facts straight. Some are saying that protests are due to begin in Muscat and in Nizwa today, others are reporting that the riots have already died down. To be on the safe side I convinced the husband to get some extra grocery shopping done yesterday, to stock up on water and other essentials. It bothers me that a supermarket in Sohar has been targeted so I am making it a point to be safe rather than sorry. Everyone I know has also filled up the tanks of their car as usually in times of a crisis the jams at the petrol stations are a few kilometers long. I must add that so far everything is calm, we are going about our day as usual. What is unusual however are the front page news today of Muscat Daily and Times of Oman, showing gruesome images of enraged crowds and black smoke rising from all directions. Muscat Daily reports that a spokesman of Oman Police confirmed that there were two dead and 35 injured during the day. There are over 56 trucks and dozens of other vehicles trapped at roundabouts unable to get through due to the demonstrations. Tear gas was used by the police in an attempt to break up the crowd who in turn retaliated with rocks.
The spokesman also added that two ROP cars were destroyed by the rioters, but the eyewitnesses place the numbers much higher. His Majesty Sultan Qaboos bin Said has issued the following directives today:
  • Sayyid Ali bin Hamoud al Busaidi, Minister of the Diwan of the Royal Court to move to Sohar to meet the protesters and listen to their demands
  • The formation of a ministerial committee under the chairmanship of the Minister of the Diwan of the Royal Court to come up with suggestions to enhance the jurisdiction of the Shura Court
  • Steps to be taken to enhance the role of the State Financial Audit with the inclusion of State Council members to reveal malpractices if any, in the administrative apparatus
  • A monthly grant of RO150 each for Omani jobseekers registered with the Ministry of Manpower until they find jobs
  • A number of ministers are to be appointed from the Majlis A’Shura starting from the next term
  • 50,000 Omani citizens to be given employment (ONA)
It is indeed a shame that what just recently were peaceful demonstrations have turned into ugly protests involving violence, destruction of private and public property and worst of all- death.My Omani colleagues are greatly bothered by the events taking place in the interiors as many have families located there and commute there frequently.

I sincerely hope that the steps the government is taking will be sufficient to calm the crowd. I must stress the point that no one is calling for HM to step down- his people love him extensively and support the measures he is taking to promote peace within the Sultanate.
For additional posts on these events please refer to Muscat Mutterings, Dhofar Gucci and Hallucinations of a Kitten.
***Updates:
-It appears that the Lulu Hypermarket near the Globe roundabout has been burnt down by protestors. Alongside numerous vehicles, the house of the governor, the police station and other properties. Ya, because nothing says “peaceful change” like a bonfire.
As of now, the Lulu Hypermarket in Muscat has been shut down since yesterday evening.

Pictures taken from a local forum.

Friends back home-please do not worry, we are all safe here in Muscat.

Demonstrations in Sohar

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Just as we have feared we are experiencing some turbulence that echoed back from the recent events of Egypt, Bahrain, Yemen and Libya.
There are reports of gatherings and demonstrations in Sohar, which is about 2 hours away from Muscat. It is deeply innerving to be so information deprived as unfortunately the local newspapers have not covered these events extensively. For the time being we are safe. Work is going on as usual and so is life in the city. However everyone is showing great concern over what is happening in Sohar and jokes are being muttered around the office about “going home to pack”. Unfortunately it has been confirmed that at least 2 persons have been killed and about 12 heavily injured.
The mishaps have already been picked up by BBC, German media and Al Jazeera. Local updates can be found on the website of Muscat Mutterings, Dhofar Gucci and Muscat Daily.
Here are a few quotes picked out from various sources covering the events of the last two days:
“A crowd of 500 protesters, demanding democracy and jobs, gathered on Saturday outside a shopping mall in the city of Sohar, barricading vehicles and shoppers.” (Al Jazeera)
“They are at the Globe roundabout blocking traffic.” (Al Jazeera)
“My relative are leaving near Sohar r/a & they have heard gunshots & helicopters petroling.
We have heard that some protesters have broken into lulu Hyper (Sohar) & steal some goods & broke the entrance.” (Oman Forum)
“Protesters demanding higher wages, more jobs and an end to corruption disrupted traffic in Salalah and Sohar on Saturday.In Salalah, protesters staged a ‘sitin’ in front of the Minister of State and Governor of Dhofar’s Office, setting up three tents and covering the gates of the office with banners that had their demands on them.” (Muscat Daily)
Quite frankly I am a little freaked out and contemplating further means of action.
If you have any updates please feel free to share.