Online activists targeted and brutal killings highlight difficulties Omani women face
On 21st December 2022, the Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR) and the Omani Association for Human Rights (OAHR) reported the brutal killing of two women in Oman. Citizens in Oman have expressed on social media their shock at the two killings and condemned the government's failure to provide the necessary protection for women in the country. Women in Oman should be able to go to work freely and to study without persecution.
On 11th December 2022, 32-year-old commerce student Ibtisam Al-Maqrishi was killed at the gate of the University of Technology and Applied Sciences in the state of Ibri. The offender chased Al-Maqrishi by car, crashed into her car from behind, broke the window of her car and stabbed her several times. Al-Maqrishi sustained fatal injuries and died a short time later.
On 7th December 2022, 42-year-old lawyer and mother of two Amal Al-Abri was stabbed to death by her ex-husband in front of the Court of First Instance in the coastal city of Seeb. Al-Abri worked as a secretary at the Court of Appeal in Seeb before taking up a position as an associate lawyer in the office of Dr Ahmed Al-Jahwari. Reliable local sources informed GCHR that Al-Abri was subjected to several threats before she was murdered.
On 11th December 2022, online activist Majid bin Abdullah Al-Ruhaili was kidnapped by the Internal Security Service (ISS) while he was in a gym in Muscat, according to GCHR and OAHR, which called for his release. Al-Ruhaili uses his Twitter account to express his personal views on public affairs and his desire for comprehensive political and legal reform. Just two days before he was kidnapped, he tweeted, "The non-democratic power (that does not require key positions to be elected) uses a lot of election propaganda to create fake positions for the winner to sell illusions to society." Reliable local sources confirmed that Al-Ruhaili’s kidnapping was in direct retaliation for his online activism. He is said to be held incommunicado in one of the prisons of the Special Division of the Omani Police Command in Muscat. The Special Division represents the executive arm of the ISS.
On 30th October 2022, OAHR reported that, since the passing of Royal Decree No. 28/2022 which expands Article 97 of the Omani Penal Code, Omanis now face up to seven years in prison for criticising the Sultan’s wife or children. Article 97 now reads as follows:
“Whoever commits, publicly or by publication, a challenge to the rights of the Sultan and his prerogatives, or dishonours his person, shall be punished by imprisonment for a period of no less than three years and not exceeding seven years.
TEXT ADDED: The same penalty shall apply to whoever commits, publicly or by publication, a challenge to the wife of the Sultan and his heir apparent and his children, or dishonours their persons.”
On 27th October 2022, Omani businessman Hani Al-Sarhani was sentenced to 12 months in prison for allegedly violating Articles 123 and 115 of the Penal Code. His conviction relates to his work highlighting the plight of small businesses during the Covid pandemic. He was sentenced to an additional six months for organising a small, peaceful protest over economic conditions. He spent 55 days in pre-trial detention in solitary confinement and degrading conditions that, according to OAHR, amounted to torture.
This is the latest in a litany of judicial harassment directed at Al-Sarhani. He was first arrested on 9th August 2022, and released a few days later without charge, after publishing a video in which he expressed concern over the country’s deteriorating economic situation and called on the government to support the business sector. The Internal Security authorities arrested Al-Sarhani a second time on 27th August 2022, during a peaceful sit-in that he staged in Muscat along with two other entrepreneurs. He was forcibly disappeared for a time, but was released on 20th October pending the court’s verdict and sentencing on 27th October.
Civic Space Developments