SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) – Oman's appeal court has freed on bail eight out of 11 jailed demonstrators pending a retrial ordered by the Supreme Court after they staged a hunger strike against their imprisonment, their lawyer said on Monday.
The men, convicted of forming an illegal gathering, were jailed last year in a security crackdown after protests in the Gulf Arab sultanate inspired by Arab uprisings elsewhere.
They were sentenced to 18 months in prison after being detained at protests over unemployment and corruption.
"The supreme court has ordered the appeal court to release on bail the eight activists until a new trial is announced. They are out today," Khalifa al-Hinai, their lawyer, told Reuters.
Those freed paid bail of 200 rials ($520) while the three still in prison were awaiting the Supreme Court's orders, Hinai said, adding that no date had been set for the retrial.
Oman's Supreme Court on March 4 ordered a retrial after the group went on hunger strike for several days in February to press their case that their imprisonment was unlawful.
A higher court had earlier rejected their requests for an appeal.
Oman, which sits on the Strait of Hormuz through which some 40 percent of the world's sea-borne oil exports passes, has sought to placate demonstrators by pledging to create tens of thousands of public sector jobs.
But delays in implementing the promises have kept the protests simmering, and some popular anger has been directed against the once-sacrosanct figure of the sultan.-www.shafaqna.com/English
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association)control over the Strait of Hormuz.Oman will host its first municipal elections Dec. 22, one of many domestic initiatives that Omani Sultan Qaboos bin Said is implementing in an attempt to release social tension and maintain stability in the Persian Gulf nation. Muscat hopes to use these initiatives to avoid much of the social and political upheaval that has affected the Middle East, since instability has historically allowed for greater foreign interference in Omani affairs. Stability in Oman is also important for international security since the country's location helps keep Saudi Arabia and Iran from gaining too much
Before Qaboos took power, Oman was riven with internal conflict, particularly when Saudi Arabia and Iran vied for influence in the country by backing opposing Omani communities in the interior and on the coast. Stability finally came to the country under the rule of Sultan Qaboos in the 1970s. Years of expansive institutional and infrastructure development and social spending -- fueled by the country's newfound hydrocarbon wealth -- helped cement Qaboos' control over Oman's warring internal factions and balance Muscat's relationships with Riyadh and Tehran.
Political change is sweeping through much of the Middle East. From Tunisia and Egypt to Jordan and Kuwait, the slow march toward democratization has been a difficult transition, especially for the Arab monarchies. Despite regional complications, even relatively stable states like Oman and Qatar (which has scheduled municipal elections for July 2013) are changing tactics, shifting from a decadeslong strategy of keeping their populations pacified through financial appeasement to the implementation of small-scale democratic reforms.
Oman was not entirely immune to the unrest that spread across the Arab world in 2011. But protests in Oman were peaceful and called for labor reform rather than overthrowing the government. Protesters also wanted greater citizen participation in the government, which has functioned as an enlightened absolute monarchy under Qaboos.
The nationwide municipal elections will not be Oman's first elections. In 1991, Muscat held elections for representatives to the Sultan's advisory body, the Majlis al Shura. The Majlis al Shura has neither legislative powers nor influence over national security or foreign policy. The body has the right to question ministers -- a power used during workers' strikes in May and June. The Majlis al Shura helped end the strike by questioning ministers and leaders of Petroleum Development Oman and acting as a buffer against public anger and a mediator that let workers voice their demands.
The Dec. 22 elections will choose municipal councils that will serve a similar non-legislative advisory role on a more local level. Stability has been the hallmark of Qaboos' reign and the guiding principle in most of his major decisions, from foreign affairs to energy investments. The municipal elections adhere to this principle of stability by creating an avenue for the government to address social grievances with the aim of preempting future widespread unrest and greater foreign involvement.
Also with stability in mind, Muscat announced in August that over 10 years it would invest $100 billion (nearly 140 percent of 2011 gross domestic product) into the country's stalling energy sector. Oman's oil and natural gas reserves are among the smallest in the region, but the long-term stability of hydrocarbon revenues has formed the foundation for the stable Arab state Qaboos has built. By leading the Gulf in expensive enhanced oil and natural gas recovery techniques and at times importing natural gas from Qatar to maintain liquefied natural gas exports, Muscat has demonstrated that it will make difficult, costly decisions to ensure the stability of its economy in the long term.
Though the government's focus has been stability, Qaboos may be a major cause of instability in the future. In his 70s, the Sultan has not yet named an heir, and there are strong indications that one will not be named until after Qaboos' death. Without a period of public grooming and legitimization, Qaboos is relying on a complex system of public involvement in strong state institutions fueled by energy dollars to support his future successor.
The risks of instability are not Oman's alone. The critical energy shipping lanes through the Strait of Hormuz are fully within Omani territorial waters, a fact that Muscat has successfully leveraged with global naval powers (first the United Kingdom and now the United States) in return for security backing and help retaining its independence. Also, as an arena for competition between Saudi Arabia and Iran, Oman helps maintain the regional balance by keeping either power from gaining too much control over the strait.
An imminent or dramatic political shift in Oman is unlikely. Historically, reforms and economic revitalization campaigns have been able to forestall major political change for years. Oman's reaction to regional shifts will help it remain stable and therefore less susceptible to future interference by its larger, more powerful neighbors.
Source : Stratfor GI
SHAFAQNA (Shia international Association) — A recent study revealed that Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Oman are the least to integrate women in the job market.
According to a report issued by the Gallup institute published in the Saudi newspaper al-Riyadh, the percentage of women working in Saudi Arabia is below 22 percent, compared to the average 40 percent in the Middle East and 43 percent worldwide.
The report added that Qatar and Oman are also amongst the countries with the least percentage of women employment together with other non-Arab countries like Ecuador, Bolivia, Botswana, and Rwanda, where there is a gap of around 22 percent between male and females in the job market.
In contrast, the percentage of women employment in Kuwait is about 88 percent high and male employment stands at 89 percent. Kuwait was listed as one of the world’s first countries in women employment together with Singapore, Belgium, Finland, Denmark, Estonia, and Malta.
As for other Gulf countries, the report noted that female employment in Bahrain has reached 61 percent compared to 80 percent for males.
In other countries the percentage of the employment of females exceeds that of males. These include Ireland, Mongolia, Finland, and Serbia.
It was also noted that countries with a high level of local production are ones in which there is a gap between male and female employment. The report revealed that women across the world do not generally contribute to global economy as much as men do.
In the case of Saudi Arabia, official statistics revealed that the number of working women is 100,000, all in professions deemed “primary” according to the Saudi Professional Classification Manual.
The Saudi Ministry of Labor is currently launching several initiatives that aim at enhancing the role of women in the job market in a way that does not violate social norms.
Towards this end, the ministry issued last week a decree to hire female shop attendants in stores selling women items like clothes and accessories. A second decree allowed women to work as cashiers in supermarkets and a third gave women the chance to work in family public parks. A fourth ministerial decree stated that cooks in restaurants can be women provided that the illicit privacy laws, where a woman is not allowed to be with an unrelated man, are strictly followed. —www.shafaqna.com/english