Oman is one of the countries that international media and organizations pay little attention to. Since the start of the so-called Arab Spring at the beginning of 2011, Oman witnessed several protests calling for reforms in salaries, the judiciary, and political representation.
Last week a Twitter hashtag showed up with the name of three detainees #اسماعيل_حبيبة_يعقوب. They are the former Oman volleyball player Habiba Al Hinai and activists Esmail Al Muqbali and Yaqoub Al Kharusi. The activists were arrested following their visit to Fahoud oil fields last Thursday to show solidarity with the striking Omani workers from contracting companies, who were commissioned to complete a project for two oil companies in the country. According to Gulf News, the strike has been termed illegal and workers have been asked to report back by around nine contracting companies. The workers have been warned they could risk losing their jobs if they continued the strike, in which they were demanding better wages, risk allowance and provision of pensions.
Two Released, Bloggers Arrested
Six days ago, Al Hinai and Al Kharusi were released without activist Esmail Al Muqbali. Those arrests are not the only ones and they follow other arrests of the Omani human rights activists such as Khalfan Al-badawawi, who was one of the organizers of Sahar March 2011 protests, and blogger Ishaq Al-aghbari, who was arrested for criticizing authorities. Both detainees were not allowed access to their lawyers or family visits and their charges are not known yet, according to Watan online newspaper.
Mainstream media is not covering those arrests and social networks come as the only source to keep track of the arrests. According to the Gulf Discussion Forum page on Facebook, six more arrests took place this Friday. Those arrested are blogger Hassan Al-Raqishi, writer Humood Al-Rashdi, blogger Nabhan Al-Hinshi, poet Hamad Al-Khrousi, Ali Al-Saadi, and Ali Al-Haji.
Following is one of the videos circulating online is of protesters and activists who have been detained since the protests first started last year (uploaded by user newoman2011):
One of the detainees, Hilal Al-Alawi, was sentenced to two years in jail for possessing a gun and for calling for protests. He went on hunger strike with other political prisoners two weeks ago and he stitched his mouth in protest. The stitches have since been removed and Al Alawi ended his hunger strike on Friday, according to the same Facebook page.
One of the Facebook pages active in following the news of detainees posted the following photograph of a protester carrying a sign which reads: “Will the public prosecution put all of Oman's youth on trial?”:
Only time will answer this question.