In 2011 the Arab Spring brought protests to Oman. The protesters called for lower living costs and salary increases, according to a BBC article. Sultan Qaboos responded to the protesters by creating tens of thousands of new government jobs, raising the minimum wage, introducing cost of living allowances for public sector workers and expelling unpopular ministers. The swift response appears to have ended the protests because with their demands met, the protesters no longer had anything to protest.
However, according to the article, many Omanis believe that the populist reforms will only satisfy the people for five to ten years. This is due in larger part to the proliferation of social media.
|Map of Oman|
The government seems to agree because during the summer of 2012 panic over social media caused the government to prosecute and jail dozen of online activists. Clearly the government is worried about the impossibility of controlling social media.
Although, fear of government retribution is not stopping online activism. At night coffee shops become the hubs for bloggers and tweeters writing about the countries shortcomings; even though, these activists are well aware that their work is being read by the government.
Matthew Teller, the writer of the BBC article, notes that in no time Omanis will start using social media to hold the government accountable.
This article is important for a number of reasons. Teller argues that structural reforms are coming to the country. This is a critical observation because it suggests that the Arab Spring will be able to permeate into at least one of the Gulf States enacting substantial change. Whether or not it will trigger a domino effect in the other Gulf States remains to be seen.
Another important aspect implied in the article is the type of conflict that is likely to arise. With the prevalence of social media, Teller suggests that change will be achieved through nonviolent civil resistance.
This according to the Erica Chenoweth and Maria J. Stephan, authors of "Why Civil Resistance Works," is fantastic because "nonviolent resistance has been strategically superior." Nonviolent campaigns are beneficial for a number of reasons. They lead to a higher number of participation, are more likely to establish a democracy and are less likely to relapse into civil war.
In the near future Oman is likely to experience its own Arab Spring. However, unlike Egypt or Libya the use of nonviolent resistance will give Oman a better chance of achieving true democratic change. While change in Egypt appeared promising the use of violence is leading to more violence. This example demonstrates the argument made by Chenoweth and Stephan that nonviolence is more successful.
|Young Omanis using social media|
People, especially policymakers, should pay close attention to Oman. When protests do reignite, through the use of social media, policymakers should be prepared to help maintain access to the Internet. Sultan Qaboos, like the president of Syria did, will likely try to block access to social media sites. If this happens the likelihood of maintaining a nonviolent campaign will be difficult especially if the Omanis have no outside help.
Nonviolent conflict should be the vehicle used for regime change. Oman is preparing, through the use of social media, to do just that.