The Gulf, Weekly Analysis July 7-13

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The Gulf, Weekly Analysis July 7-13

Oman

 

Oman has continued its crackdown on activists by sentencing four pro-reform activists to jail for defaming Sultan Qaboos bin Said al Said.  The sentencing is the latest following a string of arrests since June of 36 pro-reform activists that includes blogger, writers, and lawyers. The arrests and sentencing have been denounced by Human Rights Watch and Reporters Without Borders.

 

Saudi Arabia, Eastern Province

 

Tensions reached their boiling point earlier this week among Shia protesters and Saudi security forces in the Kingdom’s oil-rich Eastern Province after two young men were killed while protesting the arrest and wounding of one of the government’s harshest critics, Shia cleric Sheikh Nimr al-Nirm.  Two young men were killed during the protests.  Sheikh Nimr’s arrest occurred after he irked the royal family following the death of Crown Price Nayef.  The arrest follows another incident from two weeks ago when popular Shia cleric, Ali Salman, was attacked by security forces in Bahrain while addressing a group of peaceful protesters outside his home and is speculated to be because of a speech he had made a few days earlier.  Despite being peaceful the gathering was illegal as it was unlicensed.

 

Saudi Arabia, Olympics

After the Saudi Embassy announced that the Kingdom would be sending female athletes to the London Olympics two weeks ago, Saudi Arabia officially announced Thursday that it would be sending two female competitors.  The athletes were invited to compete by the IOC and contradict earlier reports from a local Saudi paper that no women would be sent to the Games.  The two athletes are Wodjan Ali Seraj Abdulrahim Shahrkhani, for judo, and the American raised and current Pepperdine University runner Sarah Attar in the 800-meter.  No Women.No Play. Campaign Coordinator Melissa Smith notes, “We appreciate the inclusion of these women on the Saudi Olympic team However,  unless the action is accompanied by true and meaningful change issued by the Saudi Monarchy on women’s rights, it is a failure on the part of the IOC in upholding its own charter.” To learn more about the Institute’s No Wome.No Play. campaign, visit  http://nowomennoplay.org.

 

 Syria

 

President al-Assad’s regime took another blow this week as Syria’s first senior diplomat defected to th opposition and is now in Qatar according to Qatari based TV network, al-Jazeera. Nawaf Fares, who’s also a Sunni Tribal Chief, confirmed his defection in a statement broadcasted on both TV and Facebook. While the Syrian government remained quiet on previous defectors such as Brig-Gen Manaf Tlas and a deputy oil minister, the Syrian Foreign Ministry stated that Mr. Fares has been “relieved of his duties” after making statements that contradicted the duties of his post.

 

Western nations continue to pressure the UN to further threaten Syria by imposing new sanctions as the organization considers renewing its mandate for its observing mission within the country.  Currently at debate over the resolution which has to be passed before next Friday is how long the observing mission should stay in Syria.  Western states are seeking a more permanent presence while Russia, with support from China, is suggesting another 90 day rollover.  Also, more than 100 countries signed a resolution last week calling for the Security Council to invoke Article 41 in Chapter 7 of the UN charter.  The article allows for the Security Council to increase its actions against a state without involving the use of armed forces.

 

Andrew Bond is the Assistant Director at the Institute for Gulf Affairs and can be contacted at Andrew {@} gulfinsitute.org.

 

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