Middle-east Arab News Opinion | Asharq Al-awsat

How did the Sultanate escape the “Arab Spring”? | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Roughly three months after the protests in Oman died down, an observer can do nothing but search for the “magic recipe” that the Sultanate followed in order to escape the biggest crisis of its modern history with the least amount of losses, in comparison to [the experiences of other states in] the so-called “Arab Spring.” The protesters realized their demands, or at least some of them. The government did not deceive or repress its citizens, and everyone came out of this crisis a winner. This is certainly a rare occurrence in the midst of the rough waves of the Arab ocean.

Oman – that calm, dreamy Sultanate on the banks of the Arabian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman – woke up immediately when the unprecedented protests broke out. For over two months, young people filled the public squares, main roads were blocked, and supplies to and from the country’s main ports were stopped. The demonstrations impacted upon the exportation of oil. Matters became even worse when a group of protesters were killed after violent clashes with security forces. Anger spread to several Omani cities, yet all this anger was unable to sever the strong link between the Omanis and their Sultan.

Despite the calls for reforms and [better] living [conditions], the majority of which were just, the protesters did not harm the dignity of the state. They safeguarded their special relationship with Sultan Qaboos Bin Said. Even in the midst of violent anger and turmoil, and while the slogans condemned corruption and called for the dismissal of ministers, they also emphasised their allegiance to the Sultan. Were any other demonstrations similar to those in Oman?

The Sultan himself responded to the Omani demonstrations with a kind of wisdom that is rare these days. He responded to their demands quickly and did not delay like others. He dismissed 13 ministers and granted parliament legislative and regulatory powers. He promised a spending package of 2.6 billion dollars. He increased the salaries of government workers and pensioners. In addition, he introduced an unemployment benefit of 375 dollars per month for the unemployed, and the government said that it would provide 50,000 job opportunities in the public sector. Over the past three months not only have a large number of unemployed citizens found work but even those who were working in neighbouring countries have returned to their country and found jobs waiting for them.

After the demonstrations in Oman ended well and things returned to normal, one can only say that what happened in Oman proves once again that the “Arab Spring” is not the same for all countries. The protests in Oman confirmed that every country has its own set of problems and its demands are different to others. It makes no sense to compare the protests of Egypt, Tunisia, Libya Yemen, and Syria that call for change, with the protests of Morocco and Oman that demanded reforms and never once called for toppling the regime. Moreover, one cannot compare the situation of the latter two countries with the state of Bahrain, which began with calling for political reforms and ended with calling for an overthrow of the monarchy and the establishment of an Islamic republic.

The Omanis truly showed that they “know the affairs of their own world.” They got angry, protested, demanded, and confronted the security forces, but at the end of the day they achieved their goals without leaving behind an open wound, which is what these demonstrations tend to do. When the Omanis protested they did not forget to safeguard their gains, as the 2010 Human Development Report published by the UN indicated, stating that Oman occupied the top spot out of 135 countries due to its rapid human development over the past four decades.

Therefore the Omanis alone are the ones who have gained a lot and lost very little from the protest movement. May God bless the Omanis, their Sultan, and their civilised dealings with the protests – something which we can say for Oman alone.