I thought I should mention the current protests here in Oman, although considering everyone who has access to any form of public media is writing about it, I don't expect I shall have any groundbreaking news! However....
There have been a few protests around the country. Sohar has borne the brunt of it, where for whatever reason demonstrators became violent, vandalizing public property, setting fire to vehicles and breaking into the police station. The police responded with tear gas and rubber bullets and there are reportedly 2 or 3 people dead (the last time I checked). According to a source, some of the protesters who entered the police station were carrying guns (the ones which a lot of men traditionally take to gatherings).
In Salalah, there has been camp outside the Minister of State's head office for a few days now. This one is more peaceful, and apparently the protesters include older men who are keeping the youths in line!
In Muscat there is reportedly a protest being held outside the Majlis al Shura (Shura Council) so those who don't want to be involved are being advised to steer clear of the area.
So, the demands from the protesters appear to be varied, from the settling of debts to the separation of sexes in schools. I think the main (or more reasonable) ones though are more jobs, increased minimum wage, addressing wasta (influential connections), bigger subsidies on utilities (which by the way, the government heavily subsidises anyway) and better healthcare.
His Majesty, who everyone continues to pledge loyalty to, responded quickly. He has reshuffled the government by replacing or swapping ministers, announced that the Shura Council will have greater powers and that some of its members (who are elected by the public) will become government ministers. He has ordered that 50,000 jobs are to be given and that every unemployed person will receive 150 Rials per month. He is also apparently sending the minister of the royal court to Sohar to talk to the people. (I bet he is thinking...why me?!!)
The promise of 150 rials a month appears to have been a very clever tactic, as the crowds seem to have moved along to the Ministry of Manpower today.
Its important to note that Oman is essentially a peaceful country, as are Omani people. These protests are not a continuation of the protests elsewhere in the Middle East. People are asking for some policy changes, not an end to the leadership. There is no oppressive regime, and most Omani's adore the Sultan. And so they should.
More to come...although I hope good news!