Middle East protests: Oman's peaceful anti-corruption march.

Notes from different corners of the world.
Feb. 18 2011 11:22 AM

Elsewhere in the Arabian Gulf

A peaceful anti-corruption protest in Oman.

Some of the 350 protesters who marched through the Omani capital of Muscat Friday.
Some of the 350 protesters who marched through the Omani capital of Muscat Friday

MUSCAT, Oman—About 350 protesters marched through the Omani capital of Muscat Friday afternoon chanting against corruption and demanding to know where their country's oil proceeds have gone. Like Bahrain, also in the Arabian Gulf, the Sultanate of Oman is a monarchy, but its ruler, Sultan Qaboos bin Said al Said, is generally revered here. Still, there is a growing disconnect between the nation's youth and their parents, who remember what Oman was like 40 years ago, before Sultan Qaboos came to power, building schools, encouraging trade, and developing the economy.

The crowd was a diverse mix of young and old Omanis, mostly men but with some women. As is customary in Oman, the marchers wore traditional dress. One young man wore a T-shirt that proclaimed, "I love hate." He declined to be interviewed.

Protesters carried signs that read, "No to Expensive Prices, No to Corruption," "Where Is Democracy?" and "Wasta [Cronyism] Kills Competence."

Some of the 350 protesters who marched through the Omani capital of Muscat Friday.
Omani protesters
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Friday's march, the largest in Oman since unrest broke out in the Middle East, was peaceful, and protesters clashed only once with police when they were blocked from entering an intersection and disrupting traffic. The police and army officers allowed the protesters to walk a few hundred feet into the road. Representatives of the protesters and authorities shouted and argued, but no weapons were drawn, and the crowd quickly quieted and retreated, marching back the way it came, past government ministries.

At each ministry, the protesters stopped and shouted "No, no, no to corruption!" At some ministries, the crowd shouted specific slogans, such as, "Where is the money from oil and gas?" But when the crowd started to shout about particular ministers, the organizers quickly stopped them and encouraged the protesters not to insult individuals.

Some of the 350 protesters who marched through the Omani capital of Muscat Friday.
Omani protesters

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Jackie Spinner is a journalist based in the Middle East. She was a staff writer for the Washington Post for 14 years and covered the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. She is the author of Tell Them I Didn't Cry: A Young Journalist's Story of Joy, Loss, and Survival in Iraq.

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