Omani activist's family stopped from travelling

Omani activist's family stopped from travelling
A human rights activist has been targeted by the state for harassment, and now sees his family banned from travel.
2 min read
14 February, 2017
Mohammed al Fazari is a vocal critic of the country’s government [Wikimedia Commons]

Oman has banned the family of a human rights activist from travelling outside the country. Mohammed al Fazari, a blogger and civil rights defender, is a vocal critic of the country’s government and Sultan Qaboos bin Said.

At the end of January Omani authorities prevented Fazari’s wife, his three-year-old daughter and his one-year-old son from leaving the country and took their passports, but gave no reason for their treatment.

The family were told to report to police in Muscat before they could travel, meaning they cannot join Fazari where he has sought asylum in the UK.

“Imposing an arbitrary travel ban against an activist’s family suggests an intent to intimidate activists and to silence dissent,” said Joe Stork, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch.

“Oman should stop targeting activists for their peaceful activism, but instead it appears to be extending the harassment to their families.”

There is a pattern of harassment against Fazari, the founder and editor-in-chief of Mowatin magazine, which has been documented by Human Rights Watch.

Authorities arrested Fazari during a June 2012 operation that rounded up several bloggers and activists. He was held in solitary confinement and tried on trumped charges, including “insulting the Sultan.” He was freed in March 2013 following a royal pardon.

Fazari was arrested again in August 2014, held for six days without any contact to the outside world, and then released without charge. In December 2014, police stopped him at Muscat airport and confiscated his passport and identity card.

Despite a travel ban, Fazari managed to seek asylum in the UK in July 2015. Police then arrested his brother, Mahmoud, kept him for three weeks, and then released him without charge.

The Arab Charter on Human Rights, to which Oman is a signatory, guarantees the right to freedom of movement. Article 27 of the charter states that, “no citizen shall be arbitrarily or unlawfully prevented from leaving any Arab country, including his own.” The travel ban imposed on Fazari’s family is in clear violation of this charter, says HRW.

Since the 2011 popular uprisings in Oman and the Arab region, Omani security forces have harassed and prosecuted activists and critics on vague charges such as “insulting the Sultan” and “undermining the prestige of the state,” the rights group added.