Omani woman harassed by security forces and dismissed from job flees country!
The Omani Centre for Human Rights (OCHR) has been examining the case of an Omani citizen who was forced to flee her country and seek refuge in the United Kingdom after suffering persistent violations of her rights, increasing harassment by the security forces, and threats of imprisonment from high-level Omani officials.
On 24 June 2021, Mrs Magda Hafez Mohammed al-Samin, from Salalah in Dhofar Governorate, notified the Centre that she was in the UK, having arrived on 28 May and submitted an application for asylum that same day.
Magda informed the Centre that she had been treated unfairly in her job as a coordinator in the Diwan of the Royal Court. In 2013 she had progressed to a job at Grade 12 on the civil service pay scale, but in 2014 she was unexpectedly appointed to a job three grades lower, at only Grade 15. When Magda asked to be appointed at the grade she had previously reached, as was her right, she was informed that, as someone who only held a general secondary school certificate, the only job available to her, under the Civil Service Law, was Grade 15.
Magda subsequently went on to university and gained a bachelor’s degree in 2017. She then asked again to be elevated to Grade 12, as stipulated in the law. After making the request, Magda was put in charge of running the Administrative and Financial Affairs Section, with the prospect of being confirmed in a head of section job later on when the list of appointments was announced. To her surprise, however, an administrative order issued in October 2017 left her still in Grade 15, ignoring her previous request and even the fact of her having gained a university degree.
In December 2017, Magda submitted a complaint to the Court of Administrative Justice against the department that employed her, after the officials there ignored her requests. In April 2018 the Court of First Instance ruled in the department’s favour; Magda appealed against the ruling, and the appeal went in her favour. The employer then appealed against this verdict, but the court upheld the previous decision, that Magda should be appointed to the grade and job to which she was entitled.
That was in October 2018. However, Magda found to her surprise that her employer simply ignored the court’s decision and failed to implement its ruling. This led to Magda contacting the Minister of the Diwan, Khalid bin Hilal al-Busaidi, who did not reply to any of her letters. After that, Magda turned to the Criminal Court and brought a case against the minister, but in May 2019 the court found him not guilty.
In September 2019 Magda met Asaad bin Tariq, the personal representative of the Sultan at that time, the late Qaboos bin Said. He promised that her rights would be restored, and that he would pursue the matter himself. However, nothing much happened. Magda was subsequently assigned to a different work unit in February 2020, but in August that year the assignment was terminated without explanation, and she was asked to go back to her previous workplace.
Magda believes the reason for this was related to her having posted comments on Twitter about her work issue, and not having the salary grading or even job title to which she was entitled. Although she had not mentioned any names, she was summoned for questioning and detained for a week, on the grounds that she had defamed, slandered and harmed public security. After being held for a week she was released on bail.
In August 2020 Magda posted a video on Twitter asking the Sultan, Haitham bin Tariq, for her employment rights to be restored, and also protected. She was then surprised to get a call from the Sultan’s brother, Defence Minister Shihab bin Tariq, together with one of her own brothers, who is a colonel in the police. Shihab asked her brother to furnish him with details of the legal considerations behind the court ruling, and promised that he would personally take action to restore her rights. Nothing happened, however.
In January 2021 Magda went to Qatar and applied for asylum immediately on arrival in Doha, but the Qatari authorities turned down her application and asked her to leave the country. The Qatari authorities then got in touch with the Omani Ambassador in Qatar, who met Magda and asked her to go back to Muscat, promising that all her demands would be met and her rights would be restored.
As soon as Magda arrived at Muscat Airport she was met by a group of detectives from the Palace Office and Internal Security Service. After 12 hours of interrogation they promised that they would take action to restore her rights, and assured her that she could expect a call from them to follow up on her case. What happened next, however, was that in May 2021 she received a call to say that her service had been terminated and she was dismissed from her job.
Magda informed the Centre that she had also contacted officials in Oman including Grand Mufti Sheikh Ahmad al-Khalili and Chair of the Majlis al-Shura (consultative assembly) Khalid al-Mawali, but had not received any reply.
After receiving the news of her dismissal, Magda headed for Turkey and then, on 28 May 2021, to the UK, where she applied for asylum. She told the OCHR that all she was trying to do was to obtain her rights and take to court all the officials who had caused her harm and suffering.