Muscat: Slightly heavy rains or strong winds cause fear psychosis among Oman residents after two tropical cyclones hit the country within three years. Rumours spread fast and thick in these days of easier communication means therefore a group of young Omanis have taken on them to dispel tittle-tattles about weather conditions.
A social activist and former Oman woman volleyball player, Habiba Al Hinai was the brain behind the group – named Najat (Saviour). “Last year there were strong rumours about another tropical cyclone in Oman and that caused fear among the residents,” Al Hinai told Gulf News, adding that the fear psychosis emanating from lack of proper information prompted her to think about the group.
“I created a page – Najat - on Facebook to give correct information about weather conditions in the country and from there the group took off,” she said and added that she urged respected Omani educationist and writer Dr Mohammad Al Mahrouqi to join Najat after the latter posted a comment on the page.
“We two started and now a group of youngsters led by Jihad Jabr Al Busaidi have taken forward the good work,” she informed.
The vocal activist said that the information on the group’s Facebook page, Twitter account or WhatsApp group helped people plan their trip.
“There are times when someone planning a trip to Dubai from Muscat needs to know what weather conditions prevail in north of Oman or when someone is planning an outing in the Hajar Mountains it is important to know the weather conditions there as well,” Al Hinai said, adding that Najat comes to the aid at such times.
However, her involvement as an activist in recent protests and demonstration meant she had to pass on the baton of Najat to Al Busaidi.
“Habiba and Dr Mahrouqi are more like our patrons now and we actively run the group,” Al Busaidi told Gulf News.
She agreed, without elaborating, that sometimes Al Hinai’s presence in the group posed problems and they had to keep two pages ready in case the public page was hacked.
“What was started by the two has grown in the last six months with ‘reporters’ across the country feeding us about ground realities about weather conditions across the country,” she revealed.
Recently the group has also started a Twitter account to widen their reach. “The social media, mobile phone-based chat application as well as Twitter have proved to be a boon for organisations like us,” she reckons.
Najat also has a group on WhatsApp, a chat application across mobile phone systems. “The word goes around faster and we send correct information.”
Ironically, it is WhatsApp, Twitter or social media websites that are used by people to spread rumours and Najat members use the same medium to kill those rumours.
Al Busaidi said that meteorology professionals as well as those pursuing meteorology as hobby were associated with the group and handle all the queries put forward by members.
“The experts bring efficiency to the group and information becomes more authentic,” she said, adding that there were overall six administrators managing the group and all information are verified before making it public.
Najat’s efforts were noted by the Meteorological Department and their members were invited for a workshop and visited the Observatory at the Muscat International Airport. “We were the first ever ‘outside’ group to enter the observatory,” claims Al Busaidi.
Najat is now slowly expanding their activities to join hands with the other groups like Clean Up Oman and also taking active part in campaign to save Baushar Dunes. “The Baushar Dunes are unique as sand there doesn’t move like in Wahiba Sands,” she said about the importance of not allowing removal of sand from Baushar Dunes.
Also, Najat has come out of the boundaries of the social media, micro blogging or mobile phone applications to conduct a Forum at the Sultan Qaboos University with experts giving their inputs on weather patterns in the country.
Najat is aiming to give Oman residents correct information about weather conditions so that they are not gripped in fear psychosis due to rumours and wrong information spread by hearsay.