Omani police fired rubber bullets at stone-throwing protesters demanding political reform on Sunday, killing two people, and demonstrators set government buildings and cars ablaze, witnesses said. Hours after the violence, Oman's ruler, Sultan Qaboos, gave an order to create 50,000 jobs for citizens in the Gulf Arab state of 2.7 million people. Witnesses said more than 2,000 protesters had gathered for a second day in a square in Sohar demanding political reforms, more jobs and better pay before police tried to disperse them, first with tear gas and batons and then rubber bullets. ReutersThe monumental struggle for regimes in the Middle East and North Africa to contain their citizens' unrest has emerged front-and-center as the single most momentous, precedent-shattering series of events in modern Islamic history. Islam, which exerts such an especial covenant with its worshippers, exhorting them to submit in prayer five times daily, and which delineates every aspect of the lives of the faithful, has failed to teach its political leaders due respect for their populations.
While the mullahs, the clerics, the ayatollahs pound the lessons of the Koran into the malleable minds of Islam's faithful, further influencing them to obey and to submit to the prevailing order in each of their countries governed by dictators, theocratic despots, benevolent monarchs, oil-rich sheiks, and monstrous tyrants, the fundamental needs of those vast numbers who are unschooled, indigent and yet produce new mouths to feed year upon year, go ignored.
From Algeria to Yemen, Bahrain to Sudan, Qatar to Morocco, the average of each of those regimes' appearance on the human development index as judged by all civil, health, education and income indices are miserably low. On the consumer price index, the availability to these people of basic consumer goods, gives a result on average reflecting another failure. On the corruption score, most of these countries with rare exceptions have an unfortunately dismal rating.
On the index of freedoms for the people inhabiting countries like Libya, Oman, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Jordan and Egypt, among others, the result is intolerably low. But modern technology has impinged on all of these countries, from use of the Internet enabling access to social network sites, to cellphone use. As a result, it has become impossible for autocratic rulers to keep their populations ignorant of the freedoms available to people elsewhere in the world.
Freedom to vote in fair elections, freedom to join political parties other than the dominant one, freedom to dress as they wish, to consume music, to dance; freedom to purchase goods and services because they are available in societies where trade is seen as a positive element in the growth of a country's GDP. They also become aware that other countries' populations live under far fewer religious and political strictures.
Above all, they see that although unemployment exists universally, it does not exist to the degree that it does in Africa and the Middle East where the economy is far more stagnant and resistant to positive change, than elsewhere. The unemployment rate among educated and lesser-educated rural youth in Egypt, Tunisia, Saudi Arabia and Yemen, among others, is staggeringly high. And young people become restless.
They begin to agitate for their rights, not seeming to understand that their rights are totally dependent upon the whims of those who govern, and happenstance of their countries' economic performance. And there is just so many government jobs to go around in any country, before it begins to collapse in upon itself through the weight of poorly-functioning, non-producing jobs that do nothing to further the financial security of the country.
If there is a lack of enterprise and entrepreneurial spirit and opportunity, if industry and investment in production other than the extraction of naturally-endowed fossil fuels are not present nor encouraged, there is a limit to the number of jobs that can be made available. If people are not employed they cannot purchase even those foods that are available. And when there is a global food shortage bringing up the price of basic food and energy, it is highly concerning.
The very elemental formula for dissent and complaint, for protest and insurrection, for demands and resorting to violent rhetoric, descending into violent action is there: a bulging unemployed youth demographic, food scarcity, lack of fundamental civil freedoms.