Events

The Historical Roots of the Omani Left

Hosted by the Middle East Centre

Zoom (Online)

Speaker

Talal Al-Rashoud

Talal Al-Rashoud

LSE Middle East Centre

Chair

Courtney Freer

Courtney Freer

LSE Middle East Centre

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This event will be a discussion around the Omani Union (1952-1965), an overlooked political group that represents a seminal stage in the emergence of the leftist current in Oman. While the Dhofar Revolution has received increasing scholarly attention, comparatively little is known of the Jabal Akhdar (or Green Mountain) Uprising of the 1950s and early 60s, which sought independence for inner Oman under the rule of the Imam of the Ibadi sect. 

Despite the Imamate’s religious and tribal nature, the Omani Union’s educated and cosmopolitan cadres became closely aligned with it, imbuing its discourse with Arab nationalist, leftist, and Third Worldist ideas. They portrayed the “Omani Revolution” as parallel to those of Palestine and Algeria, forming part of the Pan-Arab awakening led by Nasserist Egypt, and a broader Afro-Asian struggle for independence. Moreover, they sought to transform the Imamate movement into a progressive patriotic front uniting all Omanis in armed struggle against the forces of reaction and colonialism.

Although ultimately unsuccessful in its aims, the Omani Union pioneered and popularized ideas subsequently espoused by the better-known Omani leftist movements of the late 1960s and 1970s. Prominent among these ideas were Third Worldist socialism, a common Gulf identity and solidarity (with Oman as the region’s revolutionary center), and a “Greater” or “Natural” Omani homeland extending from Dhofar to the Trucial States.

Talal Al-Rashoud is a Visiting Fellow at the Middle East Centre, and an Assistant Professor of Modern Arab history at Kuwait University. He obtained his PhD in history from the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), and holds master’s degrees in history and government from King’s College London and Georgetown University respectively. Al-Rashoud specialises in the history of modern ideological movements in the Gulf region and their transnational connections. His current research deals with the relationship between Arab nationalism and education in Kuwait (1911-1961), and Arab nationalist activism among Omani exiles in the 1950s and 1960s.

Courtney Freer is Assistant Professorial Research Fellow at the Middle East Centre. Her work focuses on the domestic politics of the Gulf states, particularly the roles played by Islamism and tribalism. Her book Rentier Islamism: The Influence of the Muslim Brotherhood in Gulf Monarchies, based on her DPhil thesis at the University of Oxford and published by Oxford University Press in 2018, examines the socio-political role played by Muslim Brotherhood groups in Kuwait, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates. 

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