Oman continues its increasingly common habit of imprisoning journalists and bloggers. The latest victim is blogger Muawiya Al Rawahi, as reported last week by Global Voices On-line and also by the lovely Dhofari Gucci. He was interviewed earlier by Global Voices here.
Photo: Imprisoned Omani blogger Muawiya Alrawahi. Photo by Jillian C York (taken from Global Voices)
Al Rawahi's #1 crime was criticising His Majesty, and HM's response to the protests last year, in a recent post (now removed from his site, but available from the Google cache spiders here).
Now, Muawiya has always been pretty out-there, with often somewhat rambling posts (unfortunately for us English speakers mainly in Arabic) about his unhappiness, work problems, religious doubts, sex, corruption, wasta, alcohol, & the Omani Government. But his forthright writing about his thoughts and ideas are a breath of fresh air in Oman, a land where maintaining 'face' and civility are of prime import. Muawiya was never afraid to tell it how he saw it. And he wrote what looks to me (via google translate!) like some half-decent Arabic poetry. Lately he started to refer to himself as 'Sid' Rawahi.
He's posted critical comments before, but as we all know here in The Sultanate of Oman, explicit speech against Oman's system of Government and especially anything critical of His Majesty, are totally verboten. Especially following the protests last year.
Hence his arrest and imprisonment. He has not yet faced trial as far as I know, but in Oman there is no habeas corpus. And his post could obviously be considered potentially illegal under Omani Law (as is almost any critical posting that mentions the Government or HM, the law is so broad and draconian), so his detention would be found OK under Habeas Corpus even if Oman had such a legal principal.
The confirmation by the Omani Court of Appeal of the 5 month prison terms given to the journalists convicted of insulting the Justice Minister doesn't make it look good for someone convicted of similar offenses against HM Sultan Qaboos...
It's a pity US journalist Judith Miller, who was granted an unusual 4 hr interview with HM last month (you can read her post about it here), didn't seem to ask him about such practices. Afterall, it's no secret that Oman is not a democracy, but an autocratic Absolute Monarchy.
Instead she focused on the on-going situation with Iran and Syria. HM supposedly said he didn't think Iran was pursuing a nuke, which is something that's difficult to believe he actually thinks, but with tensions high HM is wisely trying his best to calm things down. More on that later.
This blog is a big believer in free speech. In fact, I think it's more important in a true democratic sense than the right to vote. And as Muawiya is quoted as saying:
"the issue we don’t discuss is the issue we won’t solve"
Here here. So best wishes to you Sid. I trust you are at least being well treated by the boys in ISS and that you'll be released soon. I'm hoping you'll just be given a good talking to and released with a warning.
In other news
The gig at Royal Flight by local rockers 123 Orion was a great success. The event was a sell-out and a good time was had by all, abbeted by the cheap drinks at Royal Flight. And they raised a tremendous RO.705 [~US$1800] for their charity cause - this year the Sindbad mobile library.
Photo: Psychedelic band 123 Orion rock the house.
Well done to all involved, including new support band Iznogoud, who I presume have a French connection.
Photo: Support band Iznogoud at the Royal Flight
Their annual Winter Warmer Bash would be well worth supporting on the strength of 'any excuse for a good party', but to also raise so much money for a good cause makes it extra terrific (& thanks for the pics Jon G!)
Photo: The crowd enjoying the buzz at 123 Orion's Winter Warmer. Wish I could have been there
US moving troops into Oman? Israel keeps threatening to attack Iranian Nuclear sites.
Why would HM give a rare interview right now, his first big chat to an American reporter since 1997?
There are reports by right-wing Israeli news site DEBKA of significant US Troop movements into Masirah Island over the past few weeks, along with defensive military preparations in Eastern Saudi.
...Tehran too is gearing up for conflict: The Iranian Guards Ground Forces chief Brig. Gen. Mohammad Pakpour Saturday, Feb. 4 announced the start of a three-week exercise in southern Iran and the Strait of Hormuz under conditions of war. debkafile: The "exercise" is in fact an Iranian military buildup ahead of a possible American or Israel attack.
debkafile's military sources report a steady flow of many thousands of US troops for some weeks to two strategic islands within reach of Iran, Oman's Masirah just south of the Strait of Hormuz and Socotra, between Yemen and the Horn of Africa. (DEBKA-Net-Weekly 526 of Jan. 27 was the first world publication to reveal the massive concentration of American might on the two islands.)
This concentration was held by the White House as sufficiently urgent to relent on its refusal to admit the ousted Yemeni leader Ali Abdullah Salah to America for medical treatment. He won permission in exchange for his consent to the Socotra military buildup.
Our military sources report that the Saudis this week wound up their own intensive preparations for war. Large forces are now deployed around Saudi oil fields, pipelines and export facilities in the eastern provinces opposite the Persian Gulf, backed by anti-missile Patriot PAC-3 batteries. American, British and French fighter-bombers have been landing at Saudi air bases to safeguard the capital, Riyadh.
So it seems HM's interview was aimed at helping to cool down the rhetoric on Iran. HM admitted he passed onto the Iranians US warnings of a robust response to any attempt to close the Straits of Hormuz.
... He disclosed that Oman, at America's "hint" for assistance, had recently conveyed to the highest levels of the Iranian government a warning about the adverse potential consequences of closing the Strait of Hormuz. How precisely that message was conveyed -- "we have our ways and means," he said -- he would not disclose. But he added that he believes the message was clearly received.
"No one will block the Strait of Hormuz," Qaboos asserted.
Well, certainly not for very long, not with 3 US aircraft carrier groups around.
With some of the largest reserves of natural gas in the world, if electricity is what the Iranians want, good old gas turbine-driven power stations would be the cheapest and fastest way to get electrical power. Nuclear is expensive, slow, antagonistic and dangerous, and doesn't make any sense if all you really want is electricity. Everything points to a secret nuke programme.
Fingers crossed there will be a peaceful resolution to this, but in my opinion Iran seems determined to not back down. And if there's military action, remember Oman's US bases will be a target for Iranian retaliation.
Lastly - An Appeal for assistance.
I'm trying to finish the long overdue Blue City Part 3, I really am, but I need some pics of what it looks like at Al Sawadi these days. So, any readers who happen to be passing the Blue City site, please take a few moments to drive by and email a few photos to me? Please state approximate date taken and what the picture is showing. And let me know if you want photo credit or not!