by Kevin Stoda, in Salalah, Oman
First of ALL, we citizens and residents of Salalah have learnt over the past week that not only are "non-Yemeni nationals" who are fleeing the bombings by Saudi and civil war parties in Yemen these days, but injured Yemenis are also now being admitted to Sultan Qaboos hospital--the largest hospital complex this side of Muscat. We are happy to hear that Omanis are able to assist this injured Yemenis and victims of war and are able to assist others fleeing Yemen to find passage through our local airport and seaport to elsewhere further from war.
Hospitals in and throughout the Adanregion of Yemen are already over-filled with victims of war.[The number of medical practitioners registered at the Sultanate's Ministry of Health stands at 5,444, serving in 244 healthcare institutions, including hospitals, health complexes and medical centres across the Sultanate, according to statistics issued by the National Centre for Statistics and Information (NCSI).]
Earlier this month, I wrote three articles [1, 2, 3]about how people, like me, who live next to countries, like Yemen ( a country in the midst of a full-blown war), engage each other and are experiencing lives day-to-day. Now, it is time for an update on life in Salalah City, which is situated 90 kilometers from Yemen. However, in order to understand the better the present in the Dhofar region of Oman today--we need to turn back the clock 50 years and discuss
GAINING PERSPECTIVE ON THIS PART OF ARABIA
Less than 50 years ago, there were no such hospitals in Salalah.
In the 1960s, Oman could have never have been able to offer help to its neighbors in Yemen and to stand as a buffer against war if Said bin Taimur III, who had ruled Oman and Muscat with an iron fist from the early 1930s to 1970s, had seen his policies and politics survive through the present time.
During Said bin Taimur, Omanis experienced mostly deprivations. In his article, OMAN: The Death of the Last Feudal Arab State, Chis Kutschera, described Taimur's policy on treatment of his own people simply as : "Keep the dogs hungry, they will follow you."
Kutschera explained, "In this country [Oman] of more than 80.000 square miles -- the second largest Arab country east of Suez after Saudi Arabia -- with 750.000 inhabitants,the clock of history was stopped somewhere in the Middle Ages. Everything, it seemed was forbidden. The inhabitants of the coast were forbideen to travel inland, and those of the inland valleys could not go to the coast, or even from one valley to another. No one was allowed to go to Dhofar, in the extreme southwest."
Moreover, "[t]here were, in all Oman and Dhofar, three primary schools and not a single secondary school. Students who wanted to pursue their studies had to leave their country illegally and start a long life of exile in the Persian Gulf or Kuwait. It was forbidden to build new houses, or to repair the old ones; forbidden to install a lavatory or a gas stove; forbidden to cultivate new land, or to buy a car without the Sultan's permission."
In Oman,"[n]o one could smoke in the streets, go to movies or beat drums; the army used to have a band, but one day the Sultan had the instruments thrown into the sea. A few foreigners opened a club: he had it shut, "probably because it was a place where one could have fun", says one of his former victims. Three hours after sunset, the city gates were closed," adds Kutschera.
Oman, like North Korea today, was basically a hermit state; "No foreigner was allowed to visit Muscat without the Sultan's personal permission, and sailors on ships anchored at Muscat could not land. Not a single paper was printed in the country. All political life was prohibited and the prisons were full. Sultan Said was surrounded by official slaves in his palace at Salalah, where time was marked in Pavlovian fashion by a bell which rang every four hours. But one day the dogs got too hungry, and they tore the Sultan almost to death."
CIVIL INSURGENCIES ON MULTIPLE FRONTS
Long before the current Sultan Qaboos took over in a coup from his father (Said bin Taimur) in 1970s, the Sultanate of Oman and Muscat was already strongly under threat from several other similar backwards-oriented Kingdoms and ideologies, too.
First in the 1950s, Saudi Arabia had supported full-scale insurrection in several parts of Taimur's Oman. Sultan Said bin Taimur finally put down, killed or expelled most of those leaders (of such a religious rebellion) by the end of that same decade. Meanwhile, after new opposition from Yemen, the Soviet Union, and China arose in the 1960s, rumors of Saudi supported insurgencies continued to surfaced often, too. .
Meanwhile, Maoist communism took hold in southern Yemen after the Yemeni Caliphate was thrown over in 1962. I should add, "[i]n Yemen, the communist movement grew out of the radical wing of the National Liberation Front (NLF) of South Yemen (Aden), which had challenged British rule. The British dominated the south and eastern part of Yemen after capturing the port of Aden in 1839. Until 1937, Yemen was ruled as part of British India. In that year, Aden was made a crown colony, with the remaining land designated as the east Aden and west Aden protectorates. In 1965, the British set up a semi-autonomous Federation of South Arabia which joined together most of the tribal states within the protectorates with the Aden colony. This was done to help stave off the triumph of the National Liberation Front, a leftist anti-colonial organization."