23 September Saturday

Oman police fire tear gas to disperse rare protests over jobs

Anas YassinUpdated: Tuesday May 25, 2021

Manama : Omani riot police fired tear gas as protesters gathered in the industrial city of Sohar for the second day against layoffs and poor economic conditions.

The protest drew a massive police presence outside the Labor Ministry and governor’s office in Sohar with protesters threw stones at one point and police fired tear gas, Associated Press reported.

Police has detained several people, according to witnesses.

Videos shared on social media show dozens of protesters in the city of Sohar trailed by a long line of riot police and vehicles near a government labor office.

In other videos, Omanis can be seen fleeing as tear gas canisters fall around and others being arrested. The images correspond to known landmarks around Sohar, the report said.  

Another video shows a convoy of armoured vehicles on what appears to be the highway in Sohar.

Oman State TV as well as Labor Ministry acknowledged the protest on its Twitter account. In a tweet, the ministry said they were aware of people gathering there to try to “find new job vacancies and to solve the problems of those who were fired.”

It was not immediately clear if there had been a major layoff in Sohar. The Royal Oman Police did not acknowledge making any arrests.

The demonstrations mark as the first major unrest for Sultan Haitham bin Tariq, who succeeded long-time ruler Qaboos bin Said after his death in January 2020.

Sohar lies some 200 km away from the capital Muscat and 150 km from the border of the United Arab Emirates. It is one of the provinces of Al Batinah North governorate. Government officials, including the governor of the northern Batinah province, are anchored in Sohar. It is home to a key port, as well as plants producing aluminum and steel.

Similar scattered protests on Sunday brought another mass police presence in Dohar and Sohar, activists said online. There were a number of arrests on Sunday, according to activists.

The protests remained relatively small.  Public dissent including protests has been rare in Oman since 2011, when a wave of anti-government uprisings swept through the Middle East.