Regional Information

Oman: General Human Rights Situation

Information from Annual survey 2013

Generally speaking, when compared with neighbouring states, Oman has had a good human rights record over recent years. However, human rights groups continue to report problems and call for reform and improvements in a number of areas of human rights.


In November 2009 a National Commission for Human Rights was established by royal decree. The government stressed that this reflected Oman’s commitment to maintaining human rights, freedom and dignity. In January 2013 the commission sent a delegation to a regional conference on strengthening indigenous human rights institutions held in Doha.


Justice system

Warrants for arrest must either be issued in advance or permission obtained from a judge within 24 hours of the arrest. Suspects may be detained for 14 days provided authorisation is obtained from a court. Extensions are permitted. In practice, the authorities do not always follow the law, and there are occasions when the family, or in the case of expatriates, the relevant embassy, is not promptly notified of arrests and charges.


Prisons generally meet international standards, and local human rights groups are allowed to visit. Mistreatment of those in detention is illegal under the constitution and judges can order investigations into such allegations. There was at least one report of abuse occurring during 2013 (see below), with detained political activists being at risk of mistreatment and/or denial of access to lawyers and families.


Freedom of expression

Freedom of the press is allowed in theory but restricted in practice. Criticism of the monarchy is not permitted. Restrictions on criticism of officials or ministries was ostensibly relaxed during 2011 as part of the response to protests (see below). All imported materials are subject to censorship. Public events, such as plays, must be approved in advance. In practice, most groups avoid controversial subjects for concerts, plays, etc. for fear of having their events cancelled at the last minute.


However, there were serious violations of freedom of expression during 2012. On 31st May a number of activists were arrested, with further arrests during June. This led to trials on charges relating to their criticism of the government. 29 were convicted in separated trials on 26th June and 16th September on charges relating to criticism of the government and unlawful assembly. 28 received jail sentences of six months to a year, and the 29th a suspended jail sentence. On 5th and 12th December the convictions were upheld by an appeals court. At the end of 2012, a number of others were awaiting trials or the outcome of appeals.[1] In March 2013 the Sultan pardoned them. In contrast, others were arrested and charged during 2013. On 24th January 2013 Saeed Jaddad, a human rights activist and blogger, was arrested and charged with “undermining the status and prestige of the state.”


On 29th July Sultan al-Saadi was detained and questioned about his calls on Twitter. He was released without charge on 20th August. He reported that he had been ill-treated and not allowed access to his lawyer or family.


In September 2013 the government closed down an English-language paper after it published an article on homosexuality. There was a storm of protest about the article on social media in Oman, and was denounced by the Oman’s journalists’ association. The paper, The Week, which had the largest circulation of any English-language newspaper, printed a full page apology. However, it was still closed down.


In October 2005 licences were issued for the first four private radio and TV stations in the country. Privately owned newspapers have operated for several years in Arabic and English. All practise self-censorship, and mass media does not publish material critical of officials.


Academic freedom is similarly restricted, with no publication or discussion of local politics allowed. University professors can be dismissed if they violate government guidelines.


The government blocks access to pornographic or politically sensitive websites. Skype is one online service that is blocked. There have not been reports of religious sites being blocked.


Freedom of assembly and association

The constitution provides for freedom of assembly. However, in practice all public events require prior approval. Likewise, the establishment of any organisation, including its by-laws, must be approved by the Ministry of Social Development. Similarly, NGOs may exist to provide services to women, children and the elderly.


Freedom of movement

There are a few restrictions on freedom of movement, notably for women who need the permission of their husband or male relative to obtain a passport. They may however travel to other Gulf Cooperation Council states using Identity Cards only, though again the permission of a male guardian is required to obtain such a document.


Freedom of religion or belief

The Basic Law of Oman issued by Royal decree in 1996 provides for some degree of religious freedom, whilst establishing Islam as the state religion and Shari’a law as the basis for legislation. Of note is that Article 17 contains provisions for non-discrimination, including on grounds of religion, and Article 28 protects the right to practise recognised religious rites.


In practice restrictions apply, including the prevention of evangelism of Muslims. Religious materials, other than Islamic ones, cannot be published in the country, though may be imported.


The government monitors mosques to ensure that only approved messages are given, and that Imams and other religious leaders do not promote intolerance or incitement to religious hatred. Sermons must follow standardised texts issued monthly by the Ministry of Awqaf and Religious Affairs.


The minority Shi’a community claims that it faces discrimination, particularly in the area of employment. There are Shi’ites in senior positions, both in private industry and public service. The latter seems rarer, but there are government ministers who are Shi’ite.



The GCC countries (see below) have collectively come under pressure to address the issues of the abuse of some migrant domestic workers and to reform the ‘kafala’ sponsorship system to meet the standards recommended the by International Labour Organisation’s Domestic Workers’ Convention. There has been some commitment to reform, including a GCC standard contract, and it should be noted that the worst stories from the Arabian Peninsula do not originate in Oman. However, the proposed reforms are regarded as inadequate by human rights organisations.[2]



In November 2008 the property ownership laws were amended to give women equal rights with men.


There is a National Committee for Combating Human Trafficking tasked with proposing new laws. One aspect being addressed is to allow expatriates to keep possession of their passports (rather than have them retained by their employers).


Status of key international Human Rights treaties:[3]



Covenant on Civil & Political Rights


Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights


Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment


Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women


Convention on the Rights of the Child


[2] Human Rights Watch; 17th November 2013;; checked 26th February 2014

[3] The intention is to provide a summary of where each country has positioned itself with respect to international law, i.e. to what extent each country has formally undertaken to accept the provisions and standards set. The terms ratified and acceded imply acceptance.


Latest Requests

  • Iran: one believer released, another re-imprisoned

    Posted on 29th January 2015


    Greetings in the name of Jesus, the Good Shepherd.

    Iranian Christians rejoice at the release of one Christian detainee, but request prayer for another who has been returned to prison following earlier conditional release.

    On 8th February 2012 eight believers were arrested in coordinated raids by security agents in Shiraz. Three (Nima, Sharifa and Masoud) were released on bail in March 2012, a fourth (Fariba) was released on 18th October 2012, a fifth (Korosh) on 18th May 2014 and a sixth (Homayoun) on 10th November 2014.

    We are pleased to report that a seventh, Vahid Hakkani, was released from Adel-Abad Prison in Shiraz on Monday 26th January 2015. Vahid went on hunger strike at least twice during 2014 to protest against rejection by judicial authorities of his appeal for conditional release. His family and friends had been concerned about the condition of his health.

    While Iranian Christians rejoice at Vahid's release, they request prayer for Homayoun who has had his bail conditions cancelled. He has been returned to prison to complete his sentence of 3 years and 8 months, with an additional suspended sentence of 8 months. He was charged with attending a house church, spreading Christianity, having contact with foreign ministries, propaganda against the regime and disrupting national security.

    Of the eight who were originally arrested in 2012, two now remain in detention: Homayoun and Motjaba.

    Iranian Christians request our continued prayers that:
    a. Vahid will know God's strength and love and recover from his imprisonment as he returns to his home and family
    b. Homayoun and Motjaba, together with all others detained in Iran for their Christian faith or activities, will know the Lord's strength and support during their detention and that they will be released soon
    c. All prisoners in Iran will be treated with respect and dignity as beings created in the image of God
    d. All officials involved will love mercy, act justly, learn about Jesus and choose to follow Him


    May be circulated to general mailing lists and outside organisations, and quoted from freely in reports citing "Middle East Concern" as the source of the information.

  • Turkey: Update Malatya trial

    Posted on 22nd January 2015


    Greetings in the name of Jesus, the Good Shepherd 


    On 21st January, the 101st hearing into the trial of the murder suspects responsible for the killings of Necati Aydin, Ugur Yuksel and Tilmann Geske was held in Malatya . These murders occurred on 18th April 2007 at the Zirve publishing house in Malatya. Following the hearing, three defendants were released, much to the disappointment of the victims' families, lawyers and the Christian community in Turkey. 


    The five perpetrators arrested at the crime scene had already been released from prison in March 2014 and have since been allowed to live at home with their families. Even though four of the defendants have electronic tagging devices attached (the other must report daily using his house telephone), they have been seen moving freely in Malatya.The authorities are aware of the situation, but so far have failed to address the violation of the conditions of house arrest. 


    During the trial, it became clear that a shadowy nationalistic organisation, known as Ergenekon, was associated with the attack on Zirve publishing house. It was claimed that Ergenekon sought to destabilise the government through the Malatya murders and similar attacks on Christians, including the assassination of prominent Armenian journalist Hrant Dink. As a result, further arrests were made of those suspected in planning the murders in addition to the actual perpetrators. 


    One of the lawyers representing the families of the victims, Erdal Dogan, explained that after 17th December 2014, relations improved between the government and the former Ergenekon members and that the release of the three suspects is probably related. 


    Turkish Christians following the trial request our continued prayers that: 

    a.  The families and friends of the murdered Christians will know the peace and presence of Jesus, especially concerning the trial process
    b.  Political manoeuvres will not affect the judicial process and that justice will be seen to be done
    c.  The Christian community in Turkey will be encouraged and respond appropriately to the court decisions
    d.  All those who aided or perpetrated the murders would have a deep conviction about what they have done, and understand the depths of Jesus' forgiveness
    e.  All Christians involved will know the Spirit's enabling, equipping and assisting as they persevere in their efforts to promote justice
    f.  All judges, other officials, lawyers and journalists involved will hear the gospel of Jesus, and be drawn to the Father's love, forgiveness and acceptance.


    May be circulated to general mailing lists, outside organisations, and quoted from freely in reports citing "Middle East Concern" as the source of the information. 

  • Libya: Egyptian Christians kidnapped on 3rd January

    Posted on 15th January 2015


    Greetings in the name of Jesus, 


    Christians in Libya and Egypt request prayer for thirteen Christians from Samalout in Egypt, who were kidnapped in Libya on 3rd January by an extremist group. They were targeted because of their Christian identity. 


    Efforts by the Egyptian Ministry of Foreign Affairs to secure the release of the kidnapped Christians are ongoing.The Ministry reportedly received information suggesting that the kidnapped Christians are alive, and has sent representatives to Samalout to reassure family members. 


    The political context is very sensitive. The UN yesterday (14th January) began facilitating talks in Geneva between factions in the ongoing conflict in Libya. It has been a considerable achievement for the UN to get different factions to meet together. However, much more progress is needed to bring a measure of stability to the country. 


    Christians in Libya and Egypt ask us to pray that: 

    a. the abducted Christians will know the peace and presence of Jesus, and will be released soon
    b. their family members will not react in ways that could be detrimental to ongoing efforts to secure their release
    c. the relevant authorities in Egypt and Libya would be able to devise clear and effective plans to deal with ISIS and other militant groups creating and benefiting from the ongoing instability in Libya
    d. the rule of law will be established and upheld for the benefit of all in Libya, and that the targeting of ethnic and religious minorities will cease
    e. the kidnappers will be convicted of sin, turn to Jesus and choose to follow Him 


    May be circulated to general mailing lists and outside organisations, and quoted from freely in reports citing "Middle East Concern" as the source of the information. 

  • Iran: Update on Christians detained in March 2014

    Posted on 5th January 2015


    Greetings in the name of Jesus, the Good Shepherd


    In a prayer request issued on 18th December we mentioned that two believers, Hossein and Rahman, had been released on bail but that their associate, Amin Khaki, remained detained. We are pleased to report that Amin has now also been conditionally released.


    Amin was among eight people arrested at a picnic in Shush on 5th March 2014. Those arrested were taken away, blindfolded and interrogated for several hours by armed intelligence and security agents. Although most were released following interrogation, Hossein, Rahman and Amin were imprisoned in Ahvaz.  Hossein and Rahman were released on bail in December while Amin remained detained until Saturday 3rd January 2015 when he was released on bail.


    While we rejoice that five Christians, including Amin, have recently been released from prison, we are concerned that Christians in Iran continue to face arrest, serious charges and long periods of detention. Over the Christmas period 24 arrests were recorded and of these 11 people remain detained.


    Iranian Christians rejoice that Amin has been freed, but they request our continued prayers that:
    a. As he returns to his home and family, Amin will know God's strength and love, recover from his imprisonment and that charges against him will be dropped
    b. All prisoners in Iran will be treated with respect and dignity as beings created in the image of God, and that those in prison on account of their faith in Jesus (including those recently detained during Christmas celebrations) will be released soon
    c. All officials involved will love mercy, act justly, learn about Jesus and choose to follow Him


    May be circulated to general mailing lists, outside organisations, and quoted from freely in reports citing "Middle East Concern" as the source of the information. 

  • Iran - Arrest of Christians during the Christmas period

    Posted on 2nd January 2015


    Greetings in the name of Jesus, the Prince of Peace. 


    Iranian Christians have requested our prayers following a spate of arrests of Christians during Christmas celebrations. 


    On 25th December security officials raided a house in Roudehen - a city to the west of Tehran. They arrested nine Christians, named as Mehdi Kiyan, Ali Sadreddine, Mohammad Kazemi, Azin Foroodi, Mohammad-Hossein Moridian, Maryam Narimani, Alireza Naseri, Br. Matin and an unidentified person. These people were taken to an unknown location, presumably for interrogation. 


    On 26th December security officials raided the house of Pastor Victor Bet-Tamarz, a prominent Assyrian Christian who used to serve in the leadership of Shahr-Ara Pentecostal Church in Tehran. They conducted body searches and confiscated Bibles, mobile phones and identity papers belonging to people who were attending a Christmas celebration. They detained all present, about 15 people, but most were later released with the warning that they may be summoned for further investigation. However, Pastor Victor was taken to Evin Prison in Tehran. 


    Another Christian present at the Christmas celebration, known as Amin, was taken back to his house, which was then searched. He also remains detained. 


    Prayer is also requested for Farshid Fathi, imprisoned in Rajai Shahr Prison in Karaj. Since 2010 he is serving a 6 year sentence. 


    On 29th December 2014, Farshid was taken to Branch 15 of the Revolutionary Court of Tehran where Judge Salavati issued him an additional one year sentence. The sentence was handed down in regard to the discovery of alcohol in a ward in Evin Prison, which led to an internationally controversial raid on the prison on 18th April 2014. Even though the alcohol was found in an adjacent ward, prison guards attributed it to Farshid and hence the additional 1 year sentence. 


    Iranian Christians request our prayers that: 

    a. Those arrested will know the Lord's presence, comfort and support and that the Lord will guide and protect them during interrogation
    b.  The intimidation of Christians in Iran will not result in fear, but instead that faith will be strengthened  and a clear witness maintained
    c. Farshid will not become discouraged with the additional sentence
    d. All prisoners in Iran will be treated with respect and dignity as beings created in the image of God, and that those in prison on account of their faith in Jesus, including Farshid and Pastor Victor, will be released soon
    e. All officials involved will love mercy, act justly, learn about Jesus and choose to follow Him 


    May be circulated to general mailing lists, outside organisations, and quoted from freely in reports citing "Middle East Concern" as the source of the information.