Although public dissent in the comparatively oil-poor country is rare, it looks like Oman has become the latest Arab country hit by a wave of political unrest. Conflicting reports out of Oman say between one to six protesters have been killed as police opened fire on activists. Like Egypt and Libya, Oman has been ruled by the same autocratic leader for decades: Sultan Qaboos Bin Said has been in power since 1970. And like other protesters, citizens here are demanding more jobs, higher salaries, and democratic reforms. Yesterday, the Sultan ordered his government to hire 50,000 Omanis at a salary of 150 rials ($390) a month. On Saturday, he replaced six members of his cabinet. But hundreds of protesters doubting the Sultan's word gathered in the center of Sohar for the third straight day of protests.
Qaboos came into power after a palace coup against his father in order to end Oman's isolation and use oil revenue to modernize the country. In a list of demands, protesters, who set fire to cars, a police station, and the government residence, asked that Qaboos name a prime minister and give more power to the consultative council. Although it's not clear if protesters all support the list, it also asked for salaries to be tripled, private bank debts to be canceled, and the establishment of a government fund to subsidize the cost of marrying and building a house. Bloomberg compares the feeling of unrest to those in Bahrain:
As in Bahrain, the feeling of deprivation of the Omani demonstrators is exacerbated by their proximity to richer oil-producing nations Qatar and United Arab Emirates. The U.S. Central Intelligence Agency estimates that 60 percent of the workforce in Oman was made up of non-citizens in 2007 and that unemployment in 2004 was 15 percent.
Omani Protesters Maintain Sit-In, Doubting Sultan's Promise After Clashes [Bloomberg]
Protesters defy crackdown in Oman [Al Jazeera English]