Rare protests in Oman over jobs draw massive police response

Oman map pic showing Sohar and Salalah

Scattered protests in Oman over layoffs and poor economic conditions have drawn a massive police presence in at least one city in the sultanate, with protesters throwing stones at one point and police firing tear gas.

Videos posted to social media showed several dozen Omanis in the city of Sohar trailed by a long line of riot police vehicles on Monday. Other images appear to showed a line of police in riot gear near a government labour office in the city, 200km (125 miles) northwest of the capital, Muscat.

Other images appear to showed Omanis fleeing and others being arrested. The images correspond to known landmarks around Sohar, the first major city people enter in the sultanate after coming over the border from the neighbouring United Arab Emirates (UAE).

Similar scattered protests on Sunday brought another mass police presence, activists said online. That demonstration was acknowledged by Oman’s labour ministry in a tweet, which said it was aware of people gathering there to try to “find new job vacancies and to solve the problems of those who were fired”.

It was not immediately clear if there had been a major layoff in Sohar, which is home to a key port, as well as plants producing aluminium and steel.

First major unrest

Oman’s tightly controlled private media, as well as its state news agency and television broadcaster, did not immediately report on the protest. The Royal Oman Police did not acknowledge making any arrests.

Oman’s information ministry and the Omani embassy in Washington did not immediately respond to requests for comment on Monday.

The demonstrations mark the first major unrest for Sultan Haitham bin Tariq, who took over in January 2020 after the death of the long-ruling Sultan Qaboos bin Said.

Oman faces billions of dollars in looming loan repayments, including to China, and needs even more money as its youthful population seeks jobs and its government is unable to afford the cradle-to-grave benefits given in other Gulf Arab nations.

Source: AP