Protest and Reform

The Arab Spring in Oman

Authored by: James Worrall

Routledge Handbook of the Arab Spring

Print publication date:  December  2014
Online publication date:  December  2014

Print ISBN: 9780415523912
eBook ISBN: 9781315763026
Adobe ISBN: 9781317650041


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Early in the process of the uprisings which shook the region during the early months of 2011 it appeared that with the exception of Bahrain, the turmoil was mysteriously confined to the Republican side of the fault line which characterized the period of what has come to be known as ‘the Arab Cold War’ (Kerr 1972). The media rapidly got caught up in the fever of the events and there were soon predictions of major uprisings in the Monarchical States of the Gulf. At the same time, however, the protests in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Yemen, Bahrain and Syria easily overshadowed events elsewhere in the region, especially as regimes actually toppled and violence increased. This, combined with the abysmal failure of the so-called ‘Day of Rage’ in Saudi Arabia meant that, with the exception of the situation in Bahrain, media attention on the dynastic regimes of the Arabian Peninsula dwindled and rapidly expired. The events of Oman’s Arab Spring, though, were significant in the context of the Sultanate’s politics and polity. But they were also a clear warning, for those paying attention, of the potential dangers facing those states which had seemingly managed to dodge the turmoil engulfing the Middle East. The surprising neglect of the events of spring 2011 in the Sultanate, in terms of both media and academic coverage, has led to Oman being characterized as the ‘Forgotten Corner’ of the Arab Spring (Worrall 2012). While the Sultanate experienced minimal violence and the regime was clearly never in danger, the protests plainly exposed underlying problems and tensions in Omani society, proving that the long-term stability of dynastic regimes was not assured. This chapter argues that the Oman Spring was significant in a number of ways: as a warning sign of future potential problems for rentier states, as an indicator of key challenges for Oman and as a reminder that despite surface similarities and the impact of external dynamics, the specifics and extent of protests are ultimately down to the most local and parochial of concerns, and it is these that we must understand.

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