Oman update

Oman continues to be largely off the international radar. Protests there are still on a small scale compared with some of the other Arab countries. Nevertheless, as Simeon Kerr notes in the Financial Times, Sultan Qaboos is facing "the most sustained period of unrest since he took power in a palace coup in 1970".

The Sultan has responded with a predictable mixture of concessions and repression but, as the Associated Press 
puts it, this has so far "failed to halt the wave of rallies, sit-ins and strikes to pressure for changes that include more media freedoms and weakening the ruling system's grip on power" – suggesting that "high-level shake-ups and other concessions by Oman's rulers have fallen short of the demonstrators' demands for greater political freedoms".

On Saturday, about 150 people demonstrated outside the parliament building in Muscat, demanding jobs, political reforms and an end to corruption as well as an investigation into recent deaths. The National newspaper says security was light in the capital outside the parliament, but hundreds of police and military forces supported by armoured vehicles were deployed in the industrial city of Sohar.

On Friday, a protester was killed in Sohar – apparently after being hit on the head by a plastic bullet. It was the second reported death in the city since the disturbances began more than a month ago.

This morning, in what seems to be a move to ease tensions, the authorities have announced the release of 57 protesters, though it is unclear how many are still being detained.

Overnight on Monday/Tuesday, the army cleared the Earth Roundabout in Sohar which had become a gathering place for protesters. The authorities in Bahrain took similar action against protesters at the Pearl Roundabout in Manama last month.

Posted by Brian Whitaker, 3 April 2011.