Scattered protests in Oman over layoffs and poor economic conditions drew a massive police presence Monday in at least one city in the sultanate, with protesters throwing stones at one point and police firing tear gas.
Videos posted to social media show several dozen Omanis in the city of Sohar trailed by a long line of riot police vehicles. Other images appear to show a line of police in riot gear near a government labor office in the city, some 200 kilometers (125 miles) northwest of the capital, Muscat.
Peaceful protests in Oman leads to a high number of police intervening.— Adrian Adesiyan (@AdesiyanAdrian) May 23, 2021
If this government was truly all about freedom of speech and whatnot.
They indeed would let these civilians express their rights through protest, however, dictatorships in the Middle East rarely do.#صحار pic.twitter.com/mkcMG33D8s
Other images appear to show Omanis fleeing and others being arrested. The images correspond to known landmarks around Sohar, the first major city people enter in the sultanate after coming over the border from the neighboring United Arab Emirates.
Similar scattered protests on Sunday brought another mass police presence, activists said online. That demonstration was acknowledged by Oman’s Labor Ministry in a tweet, which said it was aware of people gathering there to try to “find new job vacancies and to solve the problems of those who were fired.”
BREAKING Protests in Oman have spread from Sohar in the north to Salalah -- 800 km to the south -- the capital of Dhofar province, where anger about the economy is running high. Police moved in fast pic.twitter.com/rS9hky9Uhr— Phil Miller (@pmillerinfo) May 24, 2021
It was not immediately clear if there had been a major layoff in Sohar, which is home to a key port, as well as plants producing aluminum and steel.
Oman’s tightly controlled private media, as well as its state news agency and television broadcaster, did not immediately report on the protest. The Royal Oman Police did not acknowledge making any arrests. Oman’s Information Ministry and the Omani Embassy in Washington did not immediately respond to requests for comment on Monday.
The demonstrations mark the first major unrest for Sultan Haitham bin Tariq, who took over in January 2020 after the death of the long-ruling Sultan Qaboos bin Said.
Oman faces billions in looming loan repayments, including from China, and needs even more money as its youthful population wants jobs and its government cannot afford the cradle-to-grave benefits given in other Gulf Arab nations.