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Babylon & Beyond

Observations from Iraq, Iran,
Israel, the Arab world and beyond

Category: Oman

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OMAN: Army descends on protest camp, arrests demonstrators

Picture 3 The soldiers moved in on the protest camp as night fell over the southern Omani city of Salalah, the country's second largest, dispersing demonstrators demanding higher salaries and more jobs and possibly arresting scores before dismantling the tents they had pitched there in February, according to Arab media reports.

The clampdown started on Thursday night when the army began firing shots in the air and tear gas shells to clear out protesters who had been camping outside the local governor's office.

Clashes between security forces and protesters and arrests were said to have continued on Friday and overnight until Saturday morning, according to amateur video footage posted to the Internet and media reports. Some reports said that some of those arrested had subsequently been released from detainment.

"Security forces used their batons and took away protesters in three army buses," a witness told the Reuters news agency.

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ARAB WORLD: Rich Gulf states may roll out their own Marshall Plan to help Bahrain, Oman

Oil- and energy-rich Gulf Arab states are considering rolling out a massive Marshall Plan-style program to help poorer neighbors Bahrain and Oman tackle unrest and social discontent, Kuwaiti media has reported. 

According to the Kuwaiti Arabic daily Al Qabas (link in Arabic), citing unnamed high-level sources, the six-nation-strong Gulf Cooperation Council states are now involved in discussions about launching an aid package that would focus on economic and social reforms to boost living conditions in Bahrain and Oman, create more job opportunities for young people and enhance public services, among other things.

"The Gulf Marshall project," said the report, will cover many needs.

Bahrain and Oman are reportedly the poorest members of the GCC, both with limited oil resources and problems providing enough jobs for residents.

The would-be economic package calls for Bahraini and Omani workers to be given priority for employment priority by other GCC states.

The report said a decision about the package could be made at a Gulf summit soon but did not give any details about its cost -- the plan's name suggests a large-scale economic program. The original Marshall Plan, named after its architect, then-U.S. Secretary of State George C. Marshall, was launched by the U.S in 1947 to rebuild Western Europe after World War II.

Over the last month, demonstrators demanding political and economic reforms have taken to the streets of Bahrain and Oman in rare protests against corruption and the lack of job opportunity.

Governments across the region, especially in the Gulf Arab countries, recently have launched packages and plans in an apparent bid to appease their populations following anti-government protests and popular revolts in other Arab countries.

-- Alexandra Sandels in Beirut


 

 

 

OMAN: Protesters remain in streets as death toll from clashes rises; videos said to show protests emerge

 

Protesters remained in the streets of the Omani industrial city of Sohar on Monday, reportedly blocking the road to the port and a refinery, a day after the city witnessed deadly clashes between security forces and demonstrators demanding greater democracy and more jobs.

Witnesses first put the number of deaths at two, but the Reuters news agency, citing an emergency doctor at a hospital in Sohar, reported that the death toll from Sunday's protests has risen to six.

Media reports said that about 1,000 people were blocking the roads to the main industrial area in Sohar on Monday and that hundreds more were lingering at a roundabout, angry about police firing at protesters.

Omani TV editor Asma Rshid told CNN on Sunday that protesters were shot at because they were setting cars and property ablaze.

"The police shot them because they burned shops and cars in Sohar," she said.

Meanwhile, amateur footage said to show Sunday's protests and clashes in Sohar have surfaced on the Internet. The video above shows crowds in the streets and thick clouds of smoke, perhaps tear gas, billowing into the sky. Toward the end of the video, the crowd turns around and starts running in the opposite direction when shots start ringing out.

Below is more footage said to have been filmed during Sunday's protests, showing what appears to be a person lying in the street near an armored vehicle and a member of the security forces.

 

Angry demonstrators reportedly burned down two police stations and a state building in Sohar after Sunday's deadly clashes.

The video below is said to show smoke rising from a police station in the city on Sunday.

 

The Associated Press reported Monday that Omani security forces have started to block roads leading to Sohar in an apparent attempt to stem protests and prevent crowds from growing.

On Saturday, Oman's longtime ruler, Sultan Kaboos ibn Said, reshuffled his Cabinet and announced some social reforms in what appears to be an effort to calm protests and stem public discontent.

-- Alexandra Sandels in Beirut

Video credit: YouTube

 

 

OMAN: Ruler reshuffles Cabinet, announces reforms as deadly protests rock sultanate

201122621369928427_20Oman's longtime ruler, Sultan Kaboos ibn Said, reshuffled his Cabinet over the weekend, changing six ministers, and ordered some social reforms amid rare deadly protests and growing unrest in the small Persian Gulf nation.

The decree, published on the website of Oman's state-run news agency ONA, said the reshuffle was done in the  "public's interest," without elaborating further.

It came a day before two people were reportedly killed and 10 others wounded in clashes between demonstrators and security forces at a protest in Oman's largest industrial city Sohar on Sunday.

Omani TV editor Asma Rshid told CNN that the protesters were shot because they were setting cars and property ablaze.

"The police shot them because they burned shops and cars in Sohar," she said.

On Saturday -- the day the Cabinet reshuffle was announced -- hundreds of protesters calling for greater  democracy and jobs blocked traffic at a mall and broke streetlights in Sohar, according to Reuters news agency.

Governments across the region, especially in the Gulf Arab countries, have recently rolled out packages and plans in an apparent bid to appease their populations following uprisings and anti-government protests in other Arab countries. 

The absolute monarchy of Oman, where political parties are banned, is the latest country to be affected by the wave of unrest in the region. Sultan Kaboos has ruled the country since 1970, when he overthrew his father in a palace coup.

The Omani ruler's Cabinet reshuffle saw the replacement of six ministers, but all the longest-serving ministers reportedly will remain in their posts.

Aside from the Cabinet reshuffle, Qaboos also put out decreees boosting government grants for students at public universities and ordering the establishment of a consumer watchdog.

Earlier this month, Oman increased the minimum wage for nationals working in the private sector by more than 40%, to $520 a month, reportedly in an effort to improve living standards.

-- Alexandra Sandels in Beirut

Photo: The ruler of Oman, Sultan Kaboos ibn Said. Credit: Getty Images

MIDDLE EAST: In wake of WikiLeaks scandal, Arab leaders are cautious on Iran censure

GCC Nahyan

Arabian peninsula states have adopted a conciliatory tone on Iran a little over a week after U.S. diplomatic cables released by the watchdog site WikiLeaks appeared to show serious anxiety among Arab leaders over Tehran's growing power, and even enthusiasm in some corners (and at certain points) for a military attack on its controversial nuclear program.

Gulf Cooperation Council Secretary-General Abdul Rahman Atiyyah stopped short of an outright repudiation, but he described the content of the leaked cables as "guesses or analyses that can hit or miss" and that "generated misunderstandings," according to the Abu Dhabi-based National newspaper.

The council wrapped up a two-day summit in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, on Tuesday, gently calling on Iran to cooperate with the international community over its nuclear program in order to end sanctions against Tehran. The closing statement also reiterated Arab support for Iran's right to a peaceful nuclear program.

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