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FALLING SHORT? Oman protests suggest jobs and reform pledges are not enough
An official in the Oman Employment Committee, part of the Ministry of Manpower, said the government created 50,000 jobs but still sporadic protests have taken place since last year's unrest.
July 5, 2012 5:28 by Reuters
When about 30 people gathered outside police headquarters in the capital’s Qurum distract on June 11 to protest against the crackdown, another 22 were arrested. Eleven of those were freed on bail last week pending a court ruling due later this month on charges of illegal assembly and obstructing traffic.
The office of Oman’s public prosecutor, Hussein bin Ali al-Hilali, said in a statement carried by the state news agency on June 13 that the government was cracking down on increased use of “defamatory statements… on social media” that contained insulting language and threatened security by inciting strikes.
Hilali declined to comment about the specific charges the bloggers and others might face.
An Omani writer who has lobbied for their release, Hamoud Shkeili, said he believed the charges would be trumped up.
“It is a security services affair, and they can come up with whatever charge they want, including illegal assembly, though that isn’t what happened,” he said.
The harsh response to the unrest suggests that those who favour cracking down on dissent are holding sway along with Oman’s security apparatus, which sees the situation as a pure security threat, the academic said.
“The hardliners have started to gain some ground, and are opting for security measures rather than talk and appeasement … It’s a false belief that this is simply a matter of people trying to unsettle the country,” he said.
The academic said he believed the new criticism of the sultan indicates the degree of estrangement between the state he founded and Omanis for whom unemployment matters as much as the country’s relatively good roads and public services.
“The new generation does not remember what happened in the 1970s and how he transformed the country,” the academic said.
“He is still loved by a large majority. But it is foolish to believe this love is infinite, and things have reached a level where people make noises about him.”