[QODLink]
Middle East
Protesters defy crackdown in Oman
Health minister says one person died in anti-government demonstrations, but hospital sources say six people were killed.
Last Modified: 28 Feb 2011 10:44 GMT
Protesters have demanded political reforms, an end to corruption, and more employment opportunities [AFP]

At least one person has been killed and 20 others injured in anti-government protests in Oman, the country's health minister said, but hospital workers put the death toll at six.

The minister's statement on Monday came as protesters took to the streets for a third consecutive day in a rare public expression of dissent in the Gulf nation, setting a supermarket ablaze and clashing with police in the industrial town of Sohar, some 200km northwest of the capital, Muscat.

Security forces have sealed off main roads into the town in an effort to isolate the unrest and keep crowds from swelling. But health minister Ahmed bin Mohammed al-Saidi said security forces had used rubber bullets, denying reports that live ammunition had been fired.

The deaths occurred on Sunday when about 2,000 people joined demonstrations in Sohar, demanding political reforms.

Oman, ruled by a powerful family dynasty, marks the latest flashpoint in a wave of protests which have rocked regimes and toppled rulers across the Arab world, from Tunisia to Egypt.

Demonstrations are rare in the country, which wraps around the southeast corner of the Arabian peninsula.

Oman's ruler - Sultan Qaboos bin Said - is moving quickly to try to offer reforms to quell demands that include more jobs and a greater public voice in the country's affairs.

On Sunday, he ordered 50,000 new state positions and a monthly stipend of $390 for job seekers. A day earlier, the sultan replaced six cabinet members.

A high-level delegation also plans to travel to Sohar to meet with protesters, who on Sunday set fire to cars, a police station and the governor's residence.

Rising living costs

Basma al-Rajhi, an Omani political activist, told Al Jazeera that "Omanis are calling for [the government to] combat corruption and fight the rising cost of living, in addition to many other issues, [such as] raising salaries and [greater] media freedoms."

She said that protesters had not been satisfied with government decrees, announced earlier this week, aimed at tackling these issues.

The demonstrators in Oman, as with other protesters in the region, have emphasised their loyalty to their ruler, while voicing their dissatisfaction with his officials.

Qaboos deposed his father in a 1970 palace coup to end the country's isolation and use its oil revenue for modernisation. He appoints the cabinet, but in 1992 introduced the elected advisory Shura Council.

Source:
Al Jazeera and agencies
Topics in this article
People
Country
City
Organisation
Featured on Al Jazeera
An innovative rehabilitation programme offers Danish fighters in Syria an escape route and help without prosecution.
Street tension between radical Muslims and Holland's hard right rises, as Islamic State anxiety grows.
Take an immersive look at the challenges facing the war-torn country as US troops begin their withdrawal.
Ministers and MPs caught on camera sleeping through important speeches have sparked criticism that they are not working.
Featured
President Poroshenko arrives in Washington on Thursday with money and military aid on his mind, analysts say.
Early players in private medicine often focused on volume over quality, turning many Chinese off for-profit care.
Al Jazeera asked people across Scotland what they think about the prospect of splitting from the United Kingdom.
With social media dominating communication among young Americans, taunting is no longer confined to school hours.
Referendum on Scottish independence is the first major election in the UK where 16 and 17-year olds get a vote.
join our mailing list