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Oman: Royal Guard disperses peaceful gathering of protesting workers in front of Royal Palace

On 11 April 2021, more than 400 workers, who were temporarily dismissed in March 2020 by BGP Oil and Gas Services, began a peaceful gathering in the green area in front of the Royal Palace in the Governorate of Seeb in Oman. The company claimed they were fired due to the Covid-19 pandemic and the effects of low oil prices, and they paid their salaries for one year.

In February 2021, the company’s activities returned to their normal state, but they did not re-instate all the workers except a small number of them, leaving 405 of them still without work. Therefore, they peacefully gathered together demanding to return to work and continued to gather daily for four consecutive days. Some of them lay down on the ground and did not leave the gathering place despite the hot weather and the advent of the holy month of Ramadan.

The company made a promise to pay them another year’s salaries, so a large number of them left the site on the evening of 14 April 2021, but 50 workers remained who refused the offer.

On the morning of 15 April 2021, a number of military vehicles comprising dozens of Royal Guard members left the Royal Palace, and set up barriers in the square opposite the Palace in their quest to end the peaceful gathering and intimidate the participants, who left after noticing the Royal Guard’s advance outside the Palace.

The Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR) and the Omani Association for Human Rights (OAHR) declare their full solidarity with the dismissed workers who have not been returned to work, while strongly condemning the Royal Guard’s intimidation and suppression of the peaceful protest.

The Omani government should immediately end the policy of silencing and restricting other opinions, and targeting human rights defenders, including Internet activists. The authorities in Oman must respect public freedoms, including freedom of expression and opinion, on and off the Internet, in addition to the right of freedom of peaceful assembly.