November 16, 2011

Noth channels experiences in Oman for Honors

The Knox Student (TKS): What is your Honors project?
Greg Noth (GN): I’m looking at the differences in the way that governments responded to the uprisings in Oman, Bahrain and Yemen earlier this year, so essentially the Arab Spring in the Arabian Gulf.

TKS: How did you get that idea for the project?
GN: I got the idea because I was in Oman studying abroad last year, as it was all going on, so I was right in the middle of it. I actually was living it day-to-day. I was doing an independent project there, and I knew I wanted to do an honors project this year, and so it made sense to make my project in Oman piggyback onto an Honors project. So I did a lot of field work done and a lot of interviews with my Honors in mind, though I didn’t know exactly what it was going to be about. … But now the project has essentially evolved into, “Why do governments respond with violence to opposition?” In these three places, you had very similar events going on, literally at the exact same time, and the governments in each country responded very differently. So I’m essentially looking at a lot of literature on state repression, why governments use violence and also things about authoritarian government and other non-democratic governments. … A regime wants to stay in power, and so how does it best do that?

TKS: How much is your experience in Oman used in the paper?
GN: Over winter break and winter term, I’ll really be getting into the case studies of each country, and when I get to Oman, my time there will be hugely important for it. That will probably be the strongest section of the paper, just because I was there. I was sort of keeping a running journal of what was going on. I have a lot of personal experiences that you can’t really read about.

TKS: Personally, how did you feel being in Oman amidst this uprising?
GN: It was pretty amazing. Oman did see demonstrations not nearly on the level of most other countries. A few people were killed in a city that was about 150 kilometers from where we were.
In late February, when that happened, a grocery store got looted and burned down, a police station got burned down and a couple of people got killed. Over those last few days of February and the first few days in March, we were pretty nervous. We thought that it was either going to stop, or it was going to get a whole lot worse. Luckily, it pretty much calmed down. There were still protests and demonstrations, but they remained pretty peaceful. So it didn’t really hit the fan too much.
Though, when I was doing my independent research, I was living on my own in the southern part of the country, and my apartment was a five-minute walk from demonstrations that had been going on 24 hours a day for nine weeks in the governor’s office parking lot. … When I got there, they started marching on Fridays, so a friend and I went and checked it out. … It was a little scary being there. We were being asked, “What’re you doing here? Who are you?” People thought we were from the media. So that was a little nerve-racking, but we couldn’t really pass it up. … I’m living history. I had to go and see it myself.

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