I know, I know. Sorry about that folks. Back to business with something a bit deeper than my readers might be used to.
Has anyone else felt as if they are watching everything fall apart around them right now? As those of us in Muscat drink our third or fourth Starbucks of the week, complain about the traffic and contemplate whether we spend the weekend by the beach or driving up in the mountains, people in the world are fighting for what they believe in. People assume that those of us living in the Middle East deal with protests, suicide bombers and crazy dictators on a daily basis. But for me at least, in Oman, the restrictions are not so obvious – except pork, alcohol and media related. I have found it fascinating watching the events in Tunisia and Egypt unfolding – one of those real “watching history unfold” type moments.
So I found myself wondering about the state of affairs here in Oman and indeed in my home country. Yes, the student protests about the increase in tuition fees in the UK sparked outcry in how both some students and indeed, some police, handled the situation. But we were allowed to protest. No one could stop us as we had the right to make our voices heard.
Then came the recent events in Tunisia. A few weeks later, Oman was the next country to get protest fever as around 200 Omanis chose to protest against corruption and high prices in the sultanate. Muscat Mutterings did a great round up of the protest.
But what has been happening in Egypt seems to be taking a much more violent and sinister feel. Egypt has a population around eight times higher than that of Tunisia so if any country has enough people power behind it to pull off a revolution, it is them. True to their nature, the government has allegedly chose to block the following sites - Google, Youtube, Facebook and Twitter – in a pathetic attempt at stopping information getting to the outside. As similar incidents in Iran showed – this doesn’t work. It just makes the people angrier.
The latest information relating to these blocks is that the group Anonymous, who are best known for supporting Wikileaks by carrying out a range of online-attacks against various websites, has threatened to attack government websites in Egypt if they do not “offer free access to uncensored media in your entire country”. You can read their full statement here.
Having visited Egypt, I was aware of the hostility and anger felt by many locals when it came to Hosni Mubarak so it came as little surprise to hear that amid the protests, Gamal Mubarak – his son - and his family have fled to London. The Guardian’s correspondent in Cairo has alleged that he was arrested and beaten. While there have also been numerous claims that some protestors and activists have had their mobile phones targeted and blocked. Vodafone Egypt is among the providers alleged to have helped block these people’s phones. Many of these details can be found on the Guardian site.
So my question is, when do you step in and when do you leave it alone? How much is too much when it comes to civil unrest? Will the army steer clear and let everything continue? What right does the army, if indeed any, to step in? If the UK has taken Mubarak’s son in, how long will he stay there? Is Egypt ready for a revolution? An interesting article I found by Abigail Hauslohner suggests otherwise. What do you think about the protests? Or indeed, protesting in general? Does it get the job done or is it more hassle than it is worth?
I for one will be glued to the TV over the weekend, so sorry if I am late at replying to comments.