Oman’s battered protesters say they’ll be back

MUSCAT (Reuters) – Omani protesters on Sunday vowed to return to the area they demonstrated for five weeks in the northeast industrial town of Sohar after security forces moved them out last week.

About 400 protesters took to the streets on Friday demanding the release of their colleagues and pressing to be allowed to return to the Globe and Industrial roundabouts from where they were forced out on Tuesday.

“We will be back. We are now regrouping and we will make another attempt to return to the two roundabouts. Most likely this coming Friday after prayers,” protester Khalfan Al Mharbi told Reuters.

Security forces killed one protester and wounded eight on Friday after a crowd of stone-throwing and knife-brandishing demonstrators took to the streets. Witnesses later said that between 50 and 60 protesters were detained.

The violence followed Tuesday’s crackdown to clear the two Sohar roundabouts where about 100 protesters had camped out. Witnesses said the crowds were dispersed by water cannon, tear gas and rubber bullets. Some protesters were hit by police batons, they said.

Protests in Oman, which pumps out 864,000 barrels of oil a day, have focussed on demands for better wages, jobs and an end to corruption. Many protesters have demanded that the government prosecute sacked ministers for corruption.

Sultan Qaboos bin Said sacked 12 ministers last month in a response to calls to end corruption but no charges have yet been brought.

“We are aware of some concessions Qaboos has made so far, but we need these ministers investigated and their assets frozen until they are proven innocent,” Haddad Al Balushi, another protester at Sohar, said.

Those concessions include unemployment benefit of 150 rials ($390) a month, a pay rise for civil servants and higher pensions for the government sector. He also doubled social security’s allowances for elderly people and orphans.

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