Thursday, April 12, 2012

Ode to Wasta

"Wasta", a term in any other language meaning "undue influence".


If you've never heard of it, thank your lucky stars (or praise Allah) that you've never been desperately stuck enough to have needed it and been without. Or been surrounded by the kind of people who brag about and like to show off how much wasta they have and have had to knock on their door like a beggar in the night with a bribe or difficult promise, or been one of those good souls blessed with wasta in this country who can't tell another user loser from their one true blue friend.


In my sister's Ministry, the Ministry of education, you would think the people there would be educated enough to see how such corruption hurts their children and country.
Sadly, the same manouvering goes on. People who haven't done the work get jobs they don't deserve because they "know someone" and someone better qualified is passed by on a promotion. Tribes try to "sabotage" eachother during the hiring process or on who scholarships go to so that they can ensure the longevity their "wasta".


What I know of wasta in Oman is that most Omanis I know who complain about more influential people using "wasta" would be absolutely willing to be the first to do so themselves had they any of it themselves.

They complain of being unable to get a better paying job because their enemy tribe is sabotaging them in the Ministry. Al-Wasta tribe only hires their cousins and friends even if they haven't had the time in the feild like wasta-less has. Had they a cousin in such-and-such Ministry they'd recommend their friends just as quick, beause when they have a friend working in a restaraunt they're willing to accept free food or a bigger portion than is served to the rest at no cost to their friend, or a friend in the ROP, to get their tickets for speeding transfered for some other fool to pay. If someone you know at the police station can get your tickets erased means they are "given in error" to somebody else to pay. When is okay for Muslims to lie, cheat, or steal? I ask. "It is just...

Wasta," the excuse they give me, as if calling an act of theft or a lie by another name makes it totally acceptable. Even the better thing to do, than to be patient, and take only what belongs to you.

These people make me laugh. They are not okay with other people having wasta, but had they any of it themselves, they would be surely, the worst of offenders!


Did you know dear expat readers that tribal warfare goes on to this day, even in Muscat?

In the old days tribes would spill blood even though Islam forbids them this, over land, farms, and water. Where once two enemy tribes would spill blood for land they now fight for the same and more in their cubicles? I guess if it bloodless, it is easier to hide the evil you do.

To this day the tribes war in the country's Ministries. The enemy tribe through corruptions and bribes steals lands in the Ministry of Housing. So your cousin or what not who works there is "forced" to do the same, I have heard people tell me, because if they didn't, the other would have it all. So a land that belongs to you is traded for a land that does not of greater value and the person who does not have the "wasta/influence" of a cousin at the Ministry can not even afford land where their ancestor's have lived for hundreds of years?! and what rightfully belongs to them?


In writing this, I can tell you that I am no different.


I have used wasta. Other peoples'. Both good and bad peoples'.

I have cried in the middle of the night for lack of wasta, the injustice of it all. I have saved up friends and asked more of good people than I have a right to, and approached people I would never talk to, people I would talk about to say how slimy they all are.

I believed I had just cause to, as there was no other way because there was no way for someone to cut off the head of this corruption.

I wonder…

…Does the contractor "sealing" a lucrative business deal with a bribe or a tribe or a friend feel the same way?


Some people I know have gotten their marriage permission by bribing someone who has a cousin of a cousin in the Interior Ministry with a bribe of a brand new computer. Or known someone close to the Sultan's family. I know other women who have waited years and been denied, even though the law itself is unjust.

I think nothing bad of them, who would use wasta, against injustice. Even slimy, lizard peoples' wasta.

That is my reasoning. So am I, believing so, just as bad as someone who'd pay a little bit more in a bribe for an Omani passport, ect in the same Ministry ect.? What choice does someone have when they've used up all the proper channels and deserved to be together anyway? A sin is a sin, so is mine the same? Or does honest need, not just greed of want, relieve me of responsibility for contributing to the same system of corruption?


This feeling of deserving, it is unlawful no matter who it clings to and why it grows wings?


People in my family's tribe have used wasta in the ministries. We are not better than others even those some of us call "enemies", and I am sure we are worse than some.

One good man from the family had a very important position. His goodness, in the end, could not save him or spare him for being party to the corruption.

He eventually quit because he was tired of entire region of people asking him/expecting favours.


It exists dear expats. And is the main source of corruption in this beautiful country. Don't deny it. Don't dismiss it as a just cause of anger for the wasta-less Omani man complaining even though he would like and accept wasta from the Sultan himself should it be spilt at his feet.

The complaint is real even if the apathy to do anything about themselves is equal in scale to the problem.


We'd all look down on the machinations of the powerful "friend" to try and get his inexperienced new brother-in-law a job in your department at the Ministry or that tribe guy favoring his own land for making a new road when other places are in worse repair.

We all know its wasta when the wealthy Sheikh's son gets a scholarship to study abroad over the fisherman's son and they had the same grades, or when you can see clearly driving by that the lands of one family have increased in size from what the Government allotted everyone else in the town and you know for a fact their cousin works in the housing ministry.

The elections of the Shura council with their new powers spurred on by the more public Sohar Roundaabout and Salalah Sit-In protests have been powerless to change this.


The Sultan cut off the heads of many corrupt wing of the Ministries but it hasn't taken long for a new head to grow, for the system is rotten from within and outside itself. The only way to cut it, is at the root, at the heart and the mind of any one thinking of using wasta for anything they don't deserve or need.

Unjust laws should be changed. That aside, I will never use wasta again I have decided.

"It isn't wasta to ask so and so for a job," my friends tell me. Knowing a job that is not needed would be created just for me should I ask, where I would sit at a computer all day doing nothing but looking up pictures for this blog while someone Omani works hard as a PRO and gets paid less, or someone Indian in accounting with a real responsibility the like.

I could not morally do so.

It is these small choices, that define us.

I will not be part of this system of lies and stealing. I will call it for what it is, and not pretty up theft with the word "wasta" when any friend of mine or relative decides to be party to the institution of undue influence and means.



As I have wittnessed, is nothing more than a cursed vehicle for Racism, Nationalism, and Tribalism and a means to divide the people into those who have and have not. It makes even families of the same name divided in envy. When one uses wasta even for a little thing that is deserved that could otherwise be done lawfully in patience and trust in Allah, it is the same as the accursed fighting one another in blood and steel that lead to the downfall of the Islamic Caliphate that was once in Oman and gifted to the Omani people in trust by Rasoolulah Mohammed HIMSELF!

If someone member you know has been blessed by Allah with no might from his or herself, why do you try to ruin these blessings even if they take nothing from you at all?

I hear many blaming Europe, America, and Israel, for the loss of the Golden Age of the Islamic Empire, but honestly, all the Muslims, they did that to themselves.


Allah cannot change the state of a people, until they change it themselves.

So before you go blaming beyond your borders, before your Ministry wargrounds, before other regions and townships, before the tribe, before the family.

Look to yourself.

I don't care what other people take with their corruption. Someone else doing evil is no excuse for you to do so.

Take only what belongs to you and never make war on your own account, and you will have the "wasta" that is needed by more men in this world than any of that that Sultans and their Ministries may lay in a heap to tempt you.

You will have the wasta of Allah.


Anonymous said...

If you had edited this entry to half its length it would have twice the impact!

Anonymous said...

Lets face it, wasta is unjust, unfair and plain old just WRONG.

Unfortunately, Oman is not the only country harbouring this shameful practice and it is the responsibilty of everybody to get rid of it by not practicing it.

Omani Princess (not Omani...yet) said...

Anon #1: Sorry, I didn't know how to state all my examples and cases in a shorter length.

Anon 2: Agreed we have to cut it ourselves as a whole. And it is the disease of the entire Gulf and most of the Muslim world. Other places have it too.

Anonymous said...

Wasta is wrong but everyone is using it. I have a question does anyone know where govt ministers like to "hang out" when off duty? I desperately want to ask one of them something and can never find out where they are jetting off to next.
I once heard some of them like to hang out at some dingy coffee shop due to its shwarma.
BTW I'm not some lunatic but I am I have been trying to resolve a situation where I don't see what other wasta we can get - if you get my drift what I am on about here.

Omani Princess (not Omani...yet) said...

Last Anon: I don't know where the Ministers hang out after hours, sorry. But they do have membership (most) at that Diplomatic Club near all the major embassies so maybe pay through the nose for that? I don't think wasta is ever excusable unless it is against injustice, not the injustic of the whole wasta system alon but a truly unjust law. Even then it is iffy.

Anonymous said...

I agree with you. I was desperate though. Now I am realising that even if I did get the ear of the relevant man (and in this particular case there would only be one relevant person) and did get my plea listened to and answered it would ultimately be too late. The marriage ban is hell but men who are real men will move heaven and earth to overcome it. After 8 years I think the hope is gone. I should write a long post on this. I only pray now that my extreme hurt over what has happened this past week will not stop me returning to Oman as that is where I am happiest.
Thanks for your reply.

Omani Princess (not Omani...yet) said...

Anon: About the marriage laws? I agree, they are unjust. Wasta away.

I don't think the Minister of the Interior helps alot of cases even if he hears them.

I heard there was a man who for a bribe of 300-500 rials gets marriage permissions. I am sorry. I don't know how to help. Even if one gets the wasta to get permission they tend to use it up. Friends only want to help someone once in this regard or they'll get caught ect, :(

I will pray for you, and yes, feel free to post. If you would like to write a guest post let me know.

Anonymous said...

In my case the Minister of the Interior would not have been sufficient anyway due to where my partner worked. I am exhausted at the moment and may eventually write about this but it will take time. I just hauled myself back from the other side of the world where we finally broke - in what was to be a new beginning for us.
I will never, ever understand how a Muslim country could create such a completely un-Islamic law. I love Oman so much but this law is the one thing that is just wrong, wrong, wrong.
Thanks for your prayers.x

Mai said...

I hear some of them marry outside of the country and just pay the fine. Look into it.

Anonymous said...

For me that would be impossible. He works in a part of govt where there is a complete ban on foreign marriage. Complete and absolute ban. That is why I thought the only way around it would be petitioning the minister directly. However, I think we are broken. He won't leave the job and they will never give the permission. Unless I meet the minister and say what I want to say there is no chance and lets face it, I don't think I am going to meet the minister any day soon!
Now, I don't know if I can go back to the country I want to call home and remain in permanently.