The University of Portsmouth will provide “academic guidance” to courses that will train up to 4,200 engineering students at the new Military Technical College of Oman. In the words of the University,
The Military Technological College will provide academic education and training for the Omani armed forces and Ministry of Defence engineering services
Oman is an authoritarian and repressive regime and there is a strong likelihood the skills and weapons developed by the University of Portsmouth’s courses will be used for internal repression or in regional conflict. In 2010, Oman was rated the 143rd most democratic country in the world out of 167, behind Vietnam, China and pre-revolutionary Egypt. In 2011, Omani Arab Spring protesters were killed and imprisoned. British arms companies have continued to arm Oman, supported by the government.
Portsmouth students are currently campaigning against the partnership. Shawn Basheer, a final-year, entertainment technology student said
By partnering with the Omani Military Technical College, Portsmouth students would be indirectly helping the Omani dictatorship maintain and arm itself with the same hardware that was responsible for the deaths of protesters during the Arab Spring. Although our university isn’t too keen on cutting ties, thanks to the Student council and our University Amnesty Group, we are currently in talks to pass a motion condemning the partnership which will then be followed by a university wide rally to raise awareness
You say there is a strong likelihood that weapons will be used in internal repression or regional conflict. On what grounds do you base this? How many regional conflicts has Oman been involved in during the past half century? Granted, some reports said 1 or two people were killed during arab spring protests after government used tear gas and rubber bullets, less than the number killed on bloody sunday. The protests were far from peaceful as the protestors torched a number of business and put the general public at risk. I live in Oman. If you think it the people are repressed you should come and visit and live here. Ask the people themselves what they think rather than making ill informed assumptions from your armchair in Portsmouth. What you have to understand about the Arab world is that the general population is usually even more conservative than the leadership, which is why whenever “democracy” is imported or introduced they end up voting in islamist parties who are even more “repressive” by western standards.
Asking what people in Oman what they think of their government isn’t guaranteed to get a forthright answer as the government continues to imprison people who publicly criticise it on charges such as “insulting the Sultan”.
There are reports of at least seven protesters being killed by security services in 2011 , not just by rubber bullets, but by live fire as well. Bloody Sunday was an atrocity, and the fact that more people were killed on that day should not be used to minimise the crackdown in Oman.
I’m not sure what point you’re making with your sweeping generalisation about social conservatism in “the Arab world”, but this isn’t about “importing democracy” – it’s about the ethics of providing military training for the armed forces of a dictatorship.
That’s the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever read!
In your own words: “Portsmouth is providing ACADEMIC support!” The current students are studying ENGLISH so that they can study ENGINEERING in the future.
I agree with your intent to RAISE AWARENESS; ie: find out what the Miltary Technical College is all about before you condemn the partnership or describe Oman as a military dictatorship.
Being the 143rd most democratic country out of any number of other countries is pretty darn good considering that Oman is NOT a democracy. It’s a monarchy, and the Sultan of Oman has used the revenue from petroleum reserves to develop the country for the people. MTC is state of the art and it’s for the Omani people – to educate, create skills and jobs.
What happened in 2011 was terrible but it was paltry in comparison to what happened (and is still happening) in other Arab nations. I have close friends who live in the same city where all that trouble went on, so I know what happened. The situation was dealt wih. Mostly what one would see during that period was lines of cars going down the highways decked out in Omani flags. Omani people are largely very patriotic and truly appreciate all that His Majesty has done for their country.
Like the previous writer, I, too live and work in Oman. It’s a very peaceful place and I know for sure I’m a lot safer here than I am in most North American or UK cities.
Please do some research and stop this ill informed campaign against Oman. There are many expatriate workers here and we choose to live here because it’s a nice place. Check out some of the expat websites to find out more…Did you know that His Majesty Sultan Qaboos bin Said was awarded the International Peace Award in Washington in 1998? What do you know about him and his life? What about his most recent visit to Tehran?
There’s a Facebook page dedicated towards gaining support for him to recieve the Nobel Peace Prize. You should check it out.
No, the courses that Portsmouth Uni will be overseeing at the Military Technical College are not for studying English, nor are they purely academic. According to the University, the college “will offer programmes in different specialities such as aviation engineering, weapons and vehicle systems” and “will meet the needs of the Sultan’s Armed Forces in terms of specialised national cadres in the engineering and technical fields.”
Being the 143rd most democratic country out of 162 is not “pretty darn good” – it’s pretty darn terrible. For electoral process and pluralism, Oman scores 0 out of 10. You cannot get any less democratic than that, and that’s according to the Economist Intelligence Unit.
According to US-based research group Freedom House, Oman is rated “not free“. The Sultan has absolute power and issues laws by decree, political parties are not permitted, freedom of expression is limited and the government censors the internet. The government locks up people who criticise the Sultan and then locks up people who try to protest about that.
About the 2011 protest, you say “the situation was dealt with,” but we know how it was dealt with: with tear gas, rubber bullets and live fire.
I’m sure that life is very nice indeed for expats like yourself and Philip, but you live in a privileged stratum of Omani society and you do not speak for the Omanis who dared to protest for democratic reform and were brutally punished for it.
You write – “Oman is an authoritarian and repressive regime and there is a strong likelihood the skills and weapons developed by the University of Portsmouth’s courses will be used for internal repression or in regional conflict”.
This is juvenile nonsense, written by someone who clearly has no first hand knowledge of Oman, its history, or the detail of the project. And the quote about courses covering weapons systems and specialist cadre development does NOT come from the university (as you claim) but from a third party.
Wilfrid, Oman’s government is indisputably an authoritarian and repressive regime (based on research by Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, the Economist Intelligence Unit, Freedom House and others) and there are recent documented examples of Omani security forces carrying out what can reasonably be described as internal repression.
If you think this is “juvenile nonsense” then perhaps you can provide a counter-argument?
The quotes about the training to be offered by the Military Technical College were printed in SciTech Update – an official bulletin from the University’s Faculties of Technology and Science, so it is fair to say that they come from the University. (The quote about “specialised national cadres” was attributed to a spokesman for the Omani defence ministry.) There is no reason to doubt the veracity of those quotes.
I work for the MTC as South African expat and I can tell you what the Sultan is doing for his people are 100 times better then the British or South African governments are doing for theirs. What the MTC is doing for their students is inspirational and you should come to Oman and speak to the locals and work here before commenting on things you clearly have not experienced yourself and have only read about in the news. Oman might not be free but its not suppressing its own people or any other with military force.
The Sultan’s policies may benefit parts of Omani society, but can you explain how his regime is “100 times better” than the British government given Oman’s lack of fundamental human rights such as freedom of expression and freedom of assembly, and the lack of a free press and an independent judiciary – all things that Omanis took to the streets to protest about in 2011 and 2012?
You claim that Oman is “not suppressing its own people” but what about those who’ve been arrested and imprisoned for criticising the government or protesting peacefully, or the detainees “subjected to abuses including beating, hooding, mock execution, sleep deprivation and prolonged solitary confinement“?
Sure, I haven’t spoken to any Omanis who supported the recent protests, but then you haven’t either, have you? But in any case, these aren’t just cases that I “only read about in the news” – they are documented by several international human rights organisations.
The MTC is effectively about strengthening the military power of a dictatorship, and as such it is not “inspirational” – it is morally offensive. There is no way you can know how the government of Oman will use its enhanced military capability in the future, so perhaps you should reconsider your role in this project.