Wednesday, June 18, 2008

The debate Continues: Oman is Tier 3 - Fair comment, or Lies and distortion?

To enable the debate to continue on Oman’s Human Trafficking, here’s a chain of comments that happened on BlueChi’s blog, following my earlier angry rant on Oman’s public Tier 3 diplomatic lash-back. BlueChi has since blocked further comments on the thread, but suggested we “continue this awesome discussion over at Muscat Confidential…” (hint – he may have been a teeny bit sarcastic in that last comment…)

So here we are. Enjoy.

It is certainly a more open and quality dialogue than you will find in any of Oman's official media outlets. Personally, I find the repetition of the emotive and essentially factless response from the Foreign Ministry that started this (parroted by the Majlis, Times of Oman, Press Association) a great example of how effective propoganda can be, if you can push the right emotive buttons in the general population. In this case, the Government have essentially accused the American's of insulting Oman's world image, as some sort of vague political revenge for being nice neighbours with Iran.

In moving the story away from the facts of Oman's minimal real progress in dealing with Human Trafficking (by simply stating repeatedly that the report is groundless and untrue), and then following up with attacks in the vein of 'who are they to lecture us?' 'we, a brave proud nation with a deep tradition, will not be insulted by them', 'why don't they concentrate on Iraq and Afganistan before trying to pressure us with these lies', and general flag waving, HE the Undersecretary of the Foreign Ministry has indeed successfully diverted attention away from his abject failure to get Oman off Tier 3, i.e. his job, and onto how insulting the American's have been.

Brilliant. Brilliant, classic political communication.

I seriously doubt it would fool HM, but he certainly has BlueChi (and presumeably almost all the rest of the Omani population) on his side, which would make it hard for him to get sacked, wouldn't it? And the American's will understand that this is about internal and regional politics, and won't care a bit.

My congratulations, your excellency. If you could see me, I'm applauding.


I just read an extremely irritating post by Muscat Confidential, Oman's number 1 blog for political gossip, I suggest that you read the latest post on Oman's 3 Monkeys where Mr Undercover Dragon states that:
The Americans are under a federal duty to say the truth so they will never make a lie and that makes everything in their report true.It does not matter that the report does not talk about the absolute scale of human trafficking (then what the hell are tier levels for?)Oman deserves this because it used to trade in slaves hundreds of years ago. Oman should take action for the prostitution that happens in Thailand. Undercover Dragon, as you can see, is very objective and has serious suggestions to make the Omani government, his analysis of foreign labour issues are spot-on and I suggest that the government takes his blog more seriously.

I don't understand, if UD thinks that Oman is so bad with foreign labour then why doesn't he just get the [censored] out?!
posted by Blue Chi at 7:55 PM on Jun 15, 2008

MMK080 said...
... I've known you for three years now. This is a new side of you I've seen today in this post. It's refreshing.
6/15/2008 11:21:00 PM

Balqis said...
hehe this is not a new side to me
Baloo, I myself do not like Undercover blog but is a fact that some things happen here, and those articles yesterday on local press were a shame
If as foreigners, we point that something needs to be done, that does not mean we dislike Oman, otherwise we would go out
This is not an easy country for an expat and there are many better, but personally I prefer it
If I criticise and especially about the treatment that some/many Omanis have for Asian workers, is because I think Oman can become a better place and sometimes we all should remember we're Muslims and behave accordingly
6/16/2008 04:21:00 AM

Undercover Dragon said...
Hey Blue Chi,

Firstly, let me clarify your gross mis-representations of my commments, none of which I actually 'state' [check out the original post].
YOU: 1/ The Americans are under a federal duty to say the truth so they will never make a lie and that makes everything in their report true.
UD: The State Dept. officials who are responsible for writing the report to Congress are obliged under Federal law not to lie in the report. (Unlike any statement presented in the Omani press so far by Omani officials.) Its not a generic statement. And it wouldn't make the report true, necessarily, but it's highly unlikely to be a deliberate lie. Reading their report, I also do not find a lie either. Do you? State it.

YOU: 2/ It does not matter that the report does not talk about the absolute scale of human trafficking (then what the hell are tier levels for?)
UD: The stated purpose of the report Tier catagories (if you bothered to read the report) is explicitly not the size of the problem, but about the institutions, laws, procedures, enforcement, treatment of victims, etc a country has in place. In additon, a country that does nothing to seek infringements of the law, or to systematically document cases, obviously can't demostrate the true size of the problem anyway.

YOU: 3/ Oman deserves this because it used to trade in slaves hundreds of years ago.
UD: No, certainly not. This was a point in response to the holier-than-thou statements by both the Foreign Ministry US and Al Zedjali that Oman has a deep rooted tradition of respect for human rights,in part because of Islam, and as a result the report was insulting. I was pointing out that a couple of hundred years ago, your deep rooted culture included being active slave traders. So, the moral high horse of a deep rooted culture is a bit rich.

YOU: 4/ Oman should take action for the prostitution that happens in Thailand.
UD: Well, yes and no. Its not your country, so not too much you could do about Thailand directly, but Oman should indeed take responsibility for trying to stop its citizens travelling to Thailand (or other countries) and engaging in sex with children, or indeed sex slaves. Many countries make it a crime to do so, and even prosecute their citizens on their return. You should think about that.

And lastly, I like it here. Its not an all or nothing situation. And I'm trying to improve things here for such people, not pretending everything's perfect or just running away. Sorry.

See what I meant about a cultural reluctance to accept criticism?

The Dragon
6/16/2008 10:37:00 AM

Muscato said...
You don't live up to your usual high standards with this post.

This region's hypersensitivity to criticism (and the accompanying, inevitable, "if you don't like it, leave" attitude) are among the most mystifying aspects of Gulf culture to outsiders...
6/16/2008 03:01:00 PM

Blue Chi said...
I am sure that you guys know that I am not one of those people who think that Oman is the best country in the world and I would not just post anything to deny what other people say about it. I am not a wannabe-political blogger either. If you noticed, my post did not say anything about what I thought of the report or even what I thought about how Oman is doing. People have written all over the Internet about the report since the start of this week, I have not responded to anything regarding it anywhere because I am generally apathetic about the subject matter!

I got seriously irritated by UD's post, the bulk of it was just a nonsense rant that has not factual basis (read my post above). I was even more enraged by all the responses made by people who seem to agree to that nonsense. (check UD's to see how many people responded saying 'spot-in').

I don't understand how UD is *trying to improve things here for such people* (check his post above) by projecting to the world that Oman is the worst country in the world. It is bad for the country, it is bad for the people, and it is just not nice.

Muscato, when you comment on the state of our country you do that under the belief that it is a 'right' that you have, and at the same when we comment on your criticism it becomes hypersensitivity to which we do not have the right to do.

What kind of self-centered arrogance is this?
6/16/2008 04:17:00 PM

aamnaa said...
Blue Chi you are absolutely right. I would suggest to stop reading his blog, i did. I am positive he cares more about the traffic he gets out of his gossip than what he pretends to care about.
What I find weird is when some bloggers presume the readers should subject themselves to the content they provide, otherwise they are reluctant to accept criticism!
6/16/2008 06:33:00 PM

NiGhTFaCe said...
That Thailand's point made me laugh really!
6/16/2008 10:45:00 PM

Undercover Dragon said...

I'm afraid I don't mind that you got really irritated reading that post. But I defend your right to disagree, and to think my post was nonsense.

But here again, you argue with me by stating things that I haven't actually said, and then vehemently disagreeing with them and taking offense at them, ie :"projecting to the world that Oman is the worst country in the world". I didn't say that.

And criticism IMHO is not a bad thing, its how things can be improved.

What is "bad for the country, ...bad for the people, and ...just not nice" is when your Government fails to actually do the things they could have easily done that would have improved your country's treatment of expats, and gotten the US State Dept. to achknowledge it by rating you in Tier 2 (or even 1). Blaming the messenger is irrational and, in this case, counterproductive (if understandable).

Perhaps you could also consider, if my post was so factually incorrect and nonsense, why those people agreed with it? What is it that makes so many apparently intelligent and perceptive people who live in Oman see things going on around here so differently to that way you see them? Doesn't that interest you?

I know I find very interesting your country's (in my opinion) unwillingness to accept the report's findings despite being unable to offer a compelling argument based on facts to contradict it.

Perhaps you could also consider, who would be affected most by the sort of changes that would lift you to Tier 2 (or 1)? Who makes money from the curent situation, and who would loose out if those changes were made?

(oh, and I'm trying to improve things, not via my blog so much (thats for entertainment and occasional information and titillation), but in my personal life. Which you wouldn't know about.)

6/17/2008 06:21:00 AM

Anonymous lurker said...
Blu Chi -

It's nice to see the other side of the argument, but I really do have to side with the dragon on this, because, well, your facts are simply not fact, and for all its bluster via the national papers, the Government of Oman has yet to actually come up with any hard evidence to dispute the reports claims - only that they dont like being in Tier 3. No one likes being told they are bad, but shouting via it's national papers and summoning the US ambassador and getting angry with him isnt going to fix it.

Of course the Government could, you know, actually start doing something about the problem.

And I know a good reason why Oman's really pissed about being Tier 3 - it affects how much foreign aid it receives from the US. Mind you Oman was Tier 3 last year and special dispensation was given for additional funding (US troop training goes on here) so it'll probably be given again.

I beleive this is a cultural difference blue chi - just because some of us have spoken out and do not agree with the Government of Oman's stance on the topic, doesnt mean we dont like it here, or that we are smearing Oman as a bad place to be. It just means that as (mostly) foreign workers, who have experience of life in at least 1 other country, we can easily see the difference in human rights here for some people.

If you tried witholding someones passport in Canada, France, Spain, UK, US, etc (for example), you'd be definitly fined, and depending on the severity of the situation, likley jailed too.

A passport for a foreign worker in a foreign country is the ONLY DOCUMENT that person can use to get home. By witholding it, you are effectivly jailing that person. And that is just wrong. wrong. wrong.

The report has been issued, and Oman is Tier 3 for 2008. If Oman wants to be Tier 2 or 1 for 2009, then they know what to do. Just because Oman's been labeled Tier 3 does not mean that USA hates Oman, does not mean that Oman sucks, does not mean that everyone in Oman is treated badly. It just means that there is a problem here, its serious, and in the eyes of professionals who are paid to track and report on Human Trafficking around the world, Oman is not doing enough. Oman has stated they disagree with this report, but has not given any reasons why, just to slander the US apparently is reason enough. That just highlights the situation that seems to be developing of Oman not accepting that there is indeed a problem.

I thank you for your comments on the subject, and I just want to re-stress that I, personally, am not out to smear Oman. Its a great place with tons of potential, but as Oman becomes more and more visible on the world stage, it will undergo more and more scrutiny from the outside world. If you cant take criticism, then you will never truly be enlightened, for it takes true humility to be great. None of us are perfect, you can only learn from your mistakes and move on. Embrace the knowledge that this country has to do more, and see what more can be done, instead of do nothing and shout at the US, because I promise you, that's not going to solve anything.
6/17/2008 02:27:00 PM

Leo Americanus said...
Blue Chi,
The attitude you show in your question as to "why doesn't he just get the [censored] out" goes a long way toward explaining the problems here. If you don't want the criticism and don't want foreigners here, then do the job. Maybe you do the job, but most don't. Across the Gulf, people complain about foreign meddling, but if they actually worked, and worked hard enough not to need foreign workers, then there would be less foreigners here and less foreign bloggers complaining about local problems. This may drive you into a tizzy, but consider.

Maybe because I once carried and placed blocks like an Indian, and have talked to the laborers and basked in their smiles and humanity, I am more inclined to accept UD's assertions. You should try it...
6/17/2008 08:43:00 PM

Blue Chi said...
Ladies and Gentlemen, thank you very much for your responses.

I think that all of us here had a fair chance to write a response, and now I suggest that you continue this awesome discussion over at Muscat Confidential, where Expert Expats who, unlike the rest of us Omani people, have lived in at least one other country, and, again unlike the rest of us, have once at least spoken to an Indian person, can provide us with all the answers we are looking for. (Example from the post above, Leo thinks that a solution for Oman's problem is to become self-sufficient so that we do not have any foreign labour to abuse - that is such an awesome idea! Huh?)
6/18/2008 03:36:00 AM


  1. I think the only problem facing further debate, Dragon, is that you've summed up the situation so nicely that there's really not that much to say.

    Except that the spectacle of the Omani government stamping its feet and "rejecting" an annual global report as some sort of personal, or worse, national, attack, is really very silly. As is all this talk about "lies" when no one has been able to produce a single one.

    Pass a trafficking law, educate the people about better treating labor, make sure people are able to carry their own passports, and do some public awareness about sex tourism. How hard is that? Besides being good sense and part of the Sultanate's responsibilities as a player in the international community...

  2. I feel people like Blue Chi really need to go back into the history of Oman and see wut 'Expatriates' actually did during the formative years of Oman....The American doctors( Dr.Bosch and family) who set up the first telegraph communication in Oman and provided some form of health care, the British oil explorers who helped discover oil in Oman, The Indian Traders(like The Khimji's) who helped open the Indian markets to Oman....That is maybe just a few of the hundreds of examples of what foreign hands have done for Oman and its not like Oman has not been grateful or vice versa....I think Oman and its people have extended their hospitality from that day till today to every foreigner residing here and the foreigners have only shown their appreciation including me but with the discovery of wealth comes arrogance shown by few locals who think expatriates are a burden to this country and should be treated like trash and this attitude let me repeat is only shown by few not all the people and these few bad apples probably end up giving Oman a bad name....So i guess Educating them is the only way out for Oman to get out of this predicament and strictly improve standard of life for the low income omani's and expatriates....I love Oman and i will always love Oman especially since my family has been in Oman since my Grandparents time in the 1950's (Please do correct me if any of my facts are wrong but this is just my opinion)

  3. Rather than holding to the pride of being Omani, I think it is best to take other opinions into account before making groundless statements. I'm against Oman on this one. Opinions such as yours deserve praises instead of angry responses.

  4. I would like to see better media coverage.
    Has anyone seen the papers today?

    They are embarassing themselves and doing a disservice to all.

    As an American, I have received excellent treatment as an expat. So have these doctors and other professionals interviewed.

    But seriously, this is a selective sample and any serious statistician or...well, thinking person, could see that intereviewing 10 people does not a comprehensive story make. I would like to see a poll of the labor camps. Seriously, can we do that?

  5. I am 100% with Dragon on this.

    Just a little food for thought - is/are the newspaper(s) that so vehemently protest Omani innocence in the human trafficking the same ones that publish the "Expatriate Escape" ads seen so often by any chance?


  6. Thanks Muscato, Cooguy and Yusuf.

    Anon, see latest post.

    Barbs. Thanks. And yes, those pesky absconding workers! They have to pace the ads to cover themselves I think, as sponsors being legally responsible and all...

  7. Legalities understood, but wording could be more carefully chosen! Especially if in the same paper they are denying any possibility of human trafficking.


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