Saturday, June 21, 2008

The propaganda machine moves into high gear on State Dept report.

Well well. Muscat Confidential is certainly out on a limb on the issue of the infamous US State Dept report. The Government Controlled press today (with the notable exception of the Tribune, the most independent paper we have) is full of detailed statements from lots of enthusiastic expats about how great Oman is to live in (a point of view which I fully agree with from the point of view of a highly paid professional), and how unfair the report is (which I disagree with, but can understand).

For examples see here in the
Times of Oman
, and 2 articles in the Observer
and here. Here's a couple of quotes from the Times piece:
Human trafficking in Oman? No way!
Anita Joseph
Saturday, June 21, 2008 12:37:20 AM Oman Time
MUSCAT — The wave of resentment unleashed in the Sultanate over the recent US report on human trafficking seems to be strong, with even Americans in the country frowning at the report.

“Oman is a very tolerant country, with proper laws and measures in place to prevent human trafficking,” says Fred Rowe, an American who has been living in the Sultanate for the last seven years. “I’m not sure how and why the US has come up with such a report,” he adds.
“Human trafficking? There is nothing like that over here. The report is extremely biased and unjustified, to say the least,” says Josie, a Dutch national who has been living in Muscat for the last 10 years. “The rules are very strict here and no one is allowed to come and go without proper documentation. That being the case, I can confidently say there is absolutely no trafficking of any sort happening here.”

Obviously, no quotes from any of the prostitutes in Oman, (but Mr Dragon, that’s because there aren’t any), nor from the many abused housemaids who fled to their embassies (a small number of people, a rare exception), or from the blue-suited labourers living in containers.

The reports also contain a marked shift in tone, with less strident whinging and more focus on ‘data’ (those quotes from Expats and extracts from the Basic Law), plus a statement making it clear that they do not want to annoy the Americans, as captured in the Observer:
Oman’s firm, yet civilised, reaction to the US report is a reflection of His Majesty the Sultan’s enlightened policies that espouse openness towards all nations of the world, while extending a friendly hand to all countries, including the United States with which Oman’s relations are deep-rooted. The Sultanate’s response, Omani officials confirm, will not impact negatively on these ties. On the contrary, the tenor and substance of Oman’s diplomatic response was aimed at putting the relationship inplacing relations on right shapefooting and working in favour of Oman-US bilateral relations.

Of course, I’d be more interested in hearing a statement from the Americans that 'The Sultanate’s response… will not impact negatively on these ties'.

As with all such debates, the repost from the Government contains many truths: yes, the basic law is clear, and yes, mostly the treatment of expats is very fair. And there is apparently a draft law specifically on Human Trafficking in the works. And I’d certainly rather be a subcontinent worker here than in Saudi or the UAE.

And yes, the US itself has a history, especially under the generally deplorable Bush administration, of some pretty shady acts and decisions.

But that was not what the report was saying. In fact, given the general truth in many of the comments printed today (even if I think they are not to the point), it shows how easily it would have been for Oman to even be ranked as Tier 1, if they had simply done a few small things instead of just talking about it.:
- enforce the basic law, by showing they are willing to prosecute, rather than just talking about it
- attach a penalty to the keeping of passports, and, again, enforce it
- pass a law making it illegal to travel overseas for the purposes of sex tourism
- educate those travelers heading to known countries for sex tourism
- do some sweeps to rescue the prostitutes and prosecute their pimps and customers
- establish a victim support unit for those prostitutes that are rescued
- publicise the rights of housemaids and labourers

This point of view is made clear in the report itself, where it states (on pg 11):
Some countries have held conferences and established task forces or national action plans to create goals for anti-trafficking efforts. While such activities are useful and can help to catalyze concrete law enforcement, protection, and prevention activities in the future, these conferences, plans, and task forces alone are not weighed heavily in assessing country efforts. Rather, the Report focuses on concrete actions governments have taken to fight trafficking, especially prosecutions, convictions, and prison sentences for traffickers, victim protection measures, and prevention efforts. The Report does not give great weight to laws in draft form or laws that have not yet been enacted. Finally, the Report does not focus on government efforts that contribute indirectly to reducing trafficking, such as education programs, support for economic development, or programs aimed at enhancing gender equality, although these are worthwhile endeavors.

This is to be compared to the typical statement from the Government that, by definition, there is not a problem (the reason for the original title of my rant).

Manpower Minister Dr Jumaa bin Ali al Jumaa, in a statement, dismissed any likelihood of human trafficking in the Sultanate. He stressed that the Sultanate, under the enlightened leadership of His Majesty Sultan Qaboos, has set in place institutions equipped and empowered to protect the rights of all citizens and residents. The Basic Law of the State, in its first article, stipulates that the Sultanate’s religion is Islam, which by its very tenets forbids and disdains any form of human trafficking, the minister said. This provision effectively eschews any possibility of the phenomenon being practiced within Oman’s territories, he noted. “The Basic Law of the State laid down comprehensive foundations for human rights, providing for the establishment of an independent judicial authority with a wide base of powers,” he stressed.

Hmmm. Still sounds like hear no evil, see no evil to me.


  1. I was surprised the CEO of NAWRAS weighed in publicly in the papers today...

  2. I love those idiots in the newspaper who deny that human trafficking is going on in the country. I presume that since they haven't heard of an actual event of that happening then it is not happening?
    O riiight, in other countries, they actually announce it on all media and say "WE ARE BRINGING PEOPLE IN THE COUNTRY ILLEGALLY AND WE ARE PROUD" and that's how everybody in that country knows that there is, in fact, human trafficking going on.

    I just wish people stop denying the allegations and starts listening to it and maybe even investigate it. It might turn out to be true and maybe we could do something about it. Then again, it might turn out not to be true but at least this time you may proudly say that it is not true without looking like an idiot!

  3. Vicoria,

    i though the Nawras guy's comments were awesome. Free press inches, an opportunity to suck up to the Government (they need the wasta), and put in a plug (read the 2 comments) about how great Nawras is. Wonderful. I'd like to think I'd have done exactly the same if I was CEO of Nawras.

    Backup. You called it so right. Did Balqis ever say way she thinks you are so obviously not Omani'?

  4. No she didn't. In fact, she completely stopped commenting on that Blog.
    I sorta feel bad for her. She probably needs a break or something.


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