UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 MUSCAT 001871
STATE FOR NEA/ARPI, NEA/PPD, NEA/P, AND IIP/G/NEA
E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: KPAO SOCI MU
SUBJECT: OMAN ONLINE: SUICIDE, SHEIKAHS, AND STRIKES
Â¶1. Summary: The Omani Internet message board "al-Sablah" is the
liveliest and most comprehensive Arabic-language forum for
political and social discourse in the country, touching on issues
and personalities rarely addressed in the conventional media.
While not totally free, nor wholly reflective of Omani public
opinion, this popular site nevertheless offers a worthwhile
window into the hot topics and unvarnished views of the day.
This edition of Oman Online contains the following topics:
-- "Suicide" Vs. "Martyrdom"
-- The Existence of American Troops in Oman
-- Alleged Corruption of Minister of Crafts Industries
-- Strike in Salalah Port
Suicide Vs. Martyrdom
Â¶2. Participants in al-Sablah noted how Oman's daily youth-
oriented "Al-Shabibah" newspaper described the attackers of the
Israeli town of Netanya as "suicide bombers" rather than
"martyrs." Of the 859 participants who viewed this topic, 59
responded to it. The topic then turned to a discussion of the
bombing itself; roughly 60 percent opposed the Netanya attack.
Some described it as "a crime to give the Israelis an excuse to
continue swallowing more territories and their revenge attacks
against innocents." Others saw the attack as un-Islamic, and
challenged Muslims who defend it to bring "one Quranic verse or
legitimate proof from Islamic teaching showing that killing
innocents is legal." Still others urged the tactic of peaceful
resistance, which they saw as underlying the success of the first
Â¶3. The question of American bases in Oman generated 2,354 hits
and 39 responses. Al-Sablah members were divided in their
opinion. Many did not strongly oppose the American military
presence in the Sultanate. They cited an assessment from the
Congressional Research Service that "No American troops exist
post 9/11 in Oman except for a few facilities and equipment."
Many users also agreed that "Americans are using Omani facilities
only as part of bilateral agreements." They added that "The
Omani government has signed a treaty with America limiting the
American military to the use of Omani facilities and equipment,
only 24 bases, and thus Americans in this condition are using
Omani bases rather than their own."
Â¶4. Others, however, strongly opposed any American military
presence in Oman, noting that "American bases existed during the
war against Afghanistan and Iraq or at least they used Omani
bases to attack Iraq." They asked, "Why should our country
provide any logistical support to attack another country?" One
member stated that "the [Omani] government does not take into
consideration what its people want, it only obeys mamma America."
All In The Family
Â¶5. The alleged corruption of female Omani minister Shaykhah Aisha
bint Khalfan al-Siyabiya, in charge of craft industries,
generated 7,779 hits. The 178 responders castigated the minister
"for hiring and giving her in-laws priority in all the benefits
she gets from her position." Responders discussed the minister's
latest scandal, in which she allegedly contracted with one of her
relatives to offer a course in how to make the traditional Omani
ceremonial dagger, the "khanjar," at a cost of 2000 Omani riyals
(approximately $5200) to each student in a class of twenty.
Â¶6. This topic in turn led to complaints about how the minister's
husband has benefited from his wife's position. One response
asked how her husband advanced from a BMW salesman to a high
level official in the Royal Diwan in less than one year. Some
responders complained that Sultan Qaboos himself appointed her
husband to that position per her request. An overwhelming number
of participants complained that such behavior is ruining the
whole political system; one member stated, "This is against human
rights because if human rights existed in this country...she
would have not been appointed to that position in the first
Â¶7. Al-Sablah's report of a strike in Salalah's port generated
10,558 hits and 203 responses. According to al-Sablah, "an Omani
employee (Salim Al-Ma'ashani, head of the marketing department)
punched an expatriate who was at first assumed to be an American,
but who was in fact South African. The expatriate provoked the
Omani employee by firing him and then demanding that he leave the
premises. Other Omani employees upon hearing the incident
supported Al-Ma'ashani, since he is a popular figure in the
company who always fights for their rights."
Â¶8. Other respondents chimed in. "The Omani employees called for
a strike, and the port's activities were at a standstill and in
confusion for almost 72 hours, forcing 24 ships to divert to
other destinations." The striking Omani workers demanded the
termination of the expatriate, not only for disrespecting Al-
Ma'ashani and insulting him but also for insulting all Omanis.
Some al-Sablah users claimed that the expatriate demeaned Omanis,
saying, "You people don't understand anything."
Â¶9. According to al-Sablah, the strike ended following a long
meeting between five representatives of the Omani workers and the
regional sheikhs of Dhofar, the Deputy Governor of Dhofar, and
several high-ranking ministry officials. One al-Sablah response
reported that the Omani employees resumed their duties on the
condition that Al-Ma'ashani be reinstated and that the company
management respect their grievances.