Saturday, June 03, 2006





Thursday, June 01, 2006

Al-Tabtebaei fatwa
'totally irresponsible'

Kuwait Times, Thursday, June 1, 2006

KUWAIT: Responding to questions about whether or not women had earned their political independence, dean of Kuwait University's faculty of Sharia, Prof Mohammed Al-Tabtebaei, recently issued a fatwa about how women should vote in the forthcoming parliamentary elections, reported Al-Watan.
In it, Al-Tabtebaei said husbands could direct their wives' voting choice by using their right of divorce, or the threat of divorce, if they vote for a candidate other than their choice. He said that even if a woman does so in secret she could still be legally divorced.
However, Al-Tabtebaei urged husbands not to abuse such a God-given right and reminded them that by the mere utterance of the word, be it meant or said in jest, divorce becomes effective.
It is a well-established fact in Islam that if a man utters a threat to divorce his wife for disobeying his instructions, or doing something against his wishes, and continues to do so even after he has warned her about it, the wife will be considered divorced.
Responding to this Fatwa, seventh constituency candidate, Aisha Al-Reshaid, expressed astonishment. "I consider that such a fatwa is specifically designed to attract and amass votes for a certain candidate and to deprive females of the right to take part in the process", she said, wondering how the Government could allow such interference in the electoral process.
She added that Al-Tabtebaei had never said this when other elections were held, for the municipal council, coops, students unions, teacher societies, or the social reform society. "This statement is totally irresponsible", she concluded.

Anti-corruption youth campaign

Kuwait Times, Thursday, June 1, 2006

KUWAIT: A new youth anti-corruption campaign kicked off recently under the name "Youth against Corruption", reported Al-Watan.
The campaign aims to help honest, transparent and straight talking candidates to make their way into parliament and represent the people of Kuwait.
Campaigners aim to achieve their goals by supporting and backing these candidates and exposing others who they suspect might resort to lying or vote buying.
The campaign has launched a special website:, where the group's members describe themselves as young people who have gathered together in the interest of, and for the love of, Kuwait.

Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Women's rights in Kuwait

Kuwait Times, Wednesday, May 31, 2006
Nouriya Al-Othman

Human rights are a significant feature for a country to embrace. Many countries have been struggling to achieve women's rights, but not all of them have succeeded. Only recently have women in Muslim countries gained the right to vote. For example, Egyptian women were only enfranchised in 1956, Jordanian women in 1974, and finally Kuwaiti women won the right the vote in 2005.
Women in Kuwait have long been a source of strength in the community, even before this was officially recognised by the government. Although Kuwaiti women have been gaining momentum in society only slowly, their evolution has been an impressive validation of their intelligence and strength. Although Kuwait is considered a developed country, Kuwaiti women have yet to claim their place in political society.
"The late ruler of Kuwait, Sheikh Jaber Al-Sabah, issued a royal decree in June 1999, stating that women should be allowed to vote and run for office in the next election', and yet Kuwaiti women have only recently been given the right to vote after years of struggle.
"The granting of political rights to women marked a turning point in the country, and it has been greeted with mixed reactions here. Many activists and women's rights supporters were elected [to municipal posts]. Muna Al-Fuzai, a local Kuwaiti columnist, says she "finally feels like a full human being."
It is through education that Kuwaiti women are being recognised. There is a very high percentage of Kuwaiti women at university and many more are being educated abroad. The percentage of women in universities is higher than men: hence many Kuwaiti women are being offered scholarships without any discrimination.
With a higher level of education, women have the essential tools to compete with men in the work environment. Kuwaiti women are involved in every field. For example, we have skilled doctors, businesswomen, lawyers, engineers, and women who own land, as well as large, well-known companies. They have proved they are able to participate and challenge men in every field.
Furthermore, educated women have demonstrated that they are more than capable in the political sphere. "At conferences, the Western educated women tend to take a prominent role in discussion of issues, and in some of the leadership positions at the event". The only thing we are missing is our political rights, voting, and representing in our country.
With the power of knowledge women today are stepping up to the challenge in every aspect of Kuwaiti society. The new law helped Kuwaiti women activists to participate. Jenan Boushehri and Khaledah Al-Khader are two of the female candidates who are setting up their campaigns and starting to face the challenges.
Khader spoke at her campaign in a victorious tone, telling reporters and supporters that the elections showed the country and the world the capabilities of local women. "This is the first time Kuwaiti women can show the men that we are capable. It is important that we do our best and leave the outcome of the poll to God"
In addition Rola Dashti, the president of the Kuwaiti Economist Association and a political activist, stated that the day Kuwaiti women got their rights was the day "that we as women felt freedom and defeated ignorance. I believe that today is a historic day for Kuwaiti women. Today we have achieved a victory, a victory for freedom. We have won the battle between freedom and ignorance, terrorism against development, and now Kuwaiti women will have a say in parliament," she says.
Even if some of these women are not elected, they have taken the first step. Their efforts to represent Kuwaiti women put them on the right track for the future. - Al-Qabas

Politics in schools

Kuwait Times, Wednesday, May 31, 2006
Muna Al-Fuzai

A new ministerial decision was issued to prohibit politics is schools. School kids are not allowed to discuss his thoughts and ideas publicly with students or teachers, or even the principle. Schools are also not allowed to invite thinkers or politicians to speak. Those who ignore the ministerial order will be punished. A new slap to those who call for increased democratic participation.
This nonsense will be our subject today. At a time when all the country is calling for reform and an end to corruption, the Ministry of Education is working on a new plan to limit students' reactions to what they confront day and night.
The youth are the largest group in our society. They have been trying to express and practice their civil rights lately, on different crucial subjects such as changing constituencies. Now they have been punished for that.
In the Middle East, calls for reform are usually treated with suspicion by the authorities, and as calls for aggressive public participation and rebellion against the ruling powers. Most governments fear such calls and rush to squeeze any protest until it dies from the public's fear of punishment.
But as we enjoy a limited amount of freedom in Kuwait and every rock and stone in this country is talking about democracy, why not let those youngsters practice their civil rights in schools with their teachers' supervision -- instead of encouraging them to practice it in basements or unknown areas where terrorists may lurk.
I believe that citizens should be able to present their own ideas freely through public channels in their own country.
The suppression of citizens' civil rights is the main reason for violence, which knows no border, and it can actually spread all over the world to other countries. The Middle East must stop this contradiction: If they want democratic participation, they should implement it. But in reality, they don't.
If people are to present their ideas publicly about what they think of this country, then there is no better place than schools. Here the youth can talk with their teachers or schools guests about their fears and worries.
If they are prevented from doing so, this will create anger and lead to terror and violence. This is what most Western countries are confronting now, because of these contradictory policies and the hypocrisy in the Middle East.
Any small spark will lead to destructive public action because those in their ivory towers don't care about others -- they just care about how long they will stay in power. These students are no less than any other human living in this country, and just because they can't vote, this doesn't make them less than others. They should not be ignored under any circumstances. This decision is wrong and must be cancelled immediately.

'Orange Youth' demand reform

Kuwait Times, Tuesday, May 30, 2006

KUWAIT: They have been cursed by their opponents as spoiled children and hailed by their supporters as heroes. They call themselves the voice of Kuwaiti youth, and they have broken their silence. Wearing orange T-shirts and waving orange banners and Kuwaiti flags, hundreds of "frustrated" young people launched their campaign for political reform in a rare protest outside the seat of government on May 5. Since then, they have been branded the "Orange Movement" or the "Orange Youth", with some even calling them the "Orange Revolution".
"We are a group of young people, from school, university and young graduates," one of their leaders, 29-year-old Khaled Al-Fadalah, told AFP as dozens of activists gathered outside the election registration centre. Kuwait is holding early elections on June 29 after HH the Amir Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Sabah dissolved parliament on May 21 after a bitter standoff between pro-government and opposition MPs over electoral reform. Opposition MPs have accused the government of deliberately blocking efforts to stamp out vote-buying by reducing the number of constituencies from 25, an issue that plunged the state into political crisis.
"Our beginning was spontaneous," the US-educated Fadalah said. "We were discussing the political crisis in Kuwait at a restaurant. We said we should act. We decided to hold a protest at the council of ministers." The orange protest began with the sending of SMS text messages. Then, through Internet bloggers and mobile phone calls, they set a date and a time. "Between 400 and 500 people gathered. It was very successful," said Fadalah of the peaceful rally that lasted about three hours.
The protesters and pro-reform MPs blame the election system created some 25 years ago for most of Kuwait's alleged rampant corruption, saying it promotes vote-buying and thus produces some corrupt MPs. They have pressed for the number of constituencies to be slashed to five, saying this would expand electoral districts and make vote-buying very difficult. The colour orange was chosen "for no political reason", according to Nada Al-Mutawa, one of the female activists. "It has nothing to do with Ukraine or Lebanese Christian leader Michel Aoun's movement," she told AFP.
Buoyed by their initial success, the orange activists then staged an overnight vigil outside parliament ahead of the crucial May 15 debate. A number of pro-reform MPs visited them at what later came to be known as the "Square of Will". About 1,000 members of the orange movement and others disrupted the parliament session when the government backed a motion to send the constitutional court its own bill that would trim the number of constituencies to 10. They applauded as 29 opposition MPs walked out of the session, and chanted slogans like "we want it five" and "down with the government" - forcing ministers and pro-government MPs to leave the chamber before completing the vote.
Two days later, the protesters held a large public rally at the same spot, followed on May 19 by another at which opposition MPs pledged to back a request to question Prime Minister Sheikh Nasser Mohammad Al-Ahmad Al-Sabah. "They branded us as children. Yes, we are. But children who love their country and who are determined to force positive change," activist Abdullah Buftain told thousands at the rally. "We acted out of frustration at widespread corruption in every government institution and at every level," said Fadalah.
On the day parliament was dissolved, veteran opposition former MP Ahmad Al-Saadoun hailed the orange youth "as leaders of the Kuwaiti people who brought all political groups under one umbrella". "In seven days, this group of young activists succeeded in bringing down the government. This week is historic for Kuwait, when the people exercised their right of change," Saadun said. The orange activists and opposition MPs consider that the government has "failed" at a popular level. The activists plan to play a key role in the June 29 parliamentary elections, though no Orange Movement member is standing because they are all under 30, the legal age for candidates.
Outside the election registration centre, the activists have managed to speak to most of the candidates, urging them to support a bill to reduce the number of constituencies to five and to fight corruption. "We will monitor the candidates and we will expose the corrupt ones. We will keep a close watch and we will continue to chase them," said Fadalah. The group is now using the Internet to name candidates it alleges are corrupt or who oppose reform. The orange activists have created two lists for candidates. Their "white list" contains the names of reformists, including the 29 opposition former MPs who have formed a new group called Alliance for Change, while the "black list" names hopefuls they allege are pro-government. - AFP

Al-Hashem decries 'deceitful Bangladeshis'

Kuwait Times, Tuesday, May 30, 2006
Dr Sami Alrabaa

Fouad Al-Hashem appeals in Al-Watan (May 28) to the Minister of the Interior to very carefully screen and scrutinise Bangladeshi workers before they enter Kuwait. "They are notorious for being violent and deceitful; they steal, rape women, and fake documents," Al-Hashem claims. My comment: Poor Bangladeshis! Can one generalise as Al-Hashem is doing? Are Bangladeshis really that bad? Or is it just prejudice, his own experience, or someone else's? Think about it? Who is keeping Kuwait's streets and parks clean day and night? Who is collecting the tons of garbage everyday? Who is keeping public places like ministries, schools, hospitals, universities clean because people throw litter everywhere but not in garbage-bins? It is those poor Bangladeshis-and all that for KD 30, if they ever get the money. I just wonder what would Al-Hashem do if he had to live like a Bangladeshi in Kuwait, if he had to live in a hole that rats would refuse to live in.
Besides, if Al-Hashem checked the records of the Ministry of the Interior, he would certainly find out that Bangladeshis are not more criminal than other expatriates or Kuwaitis. How about those Kuwaitis who suck the blood of their employees? For Al-Hashem's information, the Kuwaiti Municipality gives those cleaning companies per expatriate employee KD 220 a month for keeping Kuwait clean. They give the Bangladeshi a KD 30 and keep the rest, if the Bangladeshi ever gets the money. It is those companies that are deceitful-not the poor Bangladeshis. How about those Kuwaitis who sell visas and iqamas (residencies) to expatriates? Are they honest and do they deliver truthful documents when they are asked about job and salary of those expatriates to be shipped to Kuwait? In Islam, it is haram (sinful) to trade with money; to get interest on loans or bank accounts. It is usury. It is equally haram to trade with people, it is maybe more sinful. Bangladeshis are not criminals. Criminal are those who import them to Kuwait and exploit them.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Candidate gets death threats

Arab Times, Monday, May 29, 2006
Mansour Al-Sultan - Special to the Arab Times

Agencies add: A female candidate contesting the June 29 parliamentary elections withdrew from the fray after she allegedly received murder threats from unidentified sources, says Al-Seyassah. Speaking to the daily, the woman called these persons ‘egoists’. They accused her of betraying and put pressure on her family to ‘abandon’ her if she insisted to join politics in addition to threatening to murder her. The woman said she is ready to disclose the names of those who threatened her if she feels safe and the police promise to protect her.
She added a woman contesting the National Assembly seat neither brings shame to the family not is it a scandal. Moreover it is a question of pride for the family and the state. The woman has apologized to the residents in her constituency for withdrawing from the elections saying she had no other alternative. She also appealed to HH the Amir to protect Kuwaiti women against such oppression and person who want to deprive them of their political rights.

Monday, May 29, 2006

Abuse of workers

Kuwait Times, Monday, May 29, 2006

Muna Al Fuzai

Today I would like to focus on another side of the abuse of workers in Kuwait. Unfortunately, the mistreatment they get is not coming from the government but from contractors, the big bosses with rich engineers who want the job done -- regardless of the consequences. It is not fair -- justice is all they want.
This time our victims are not housemaids but simple workers. All are men and working in the building and road sector, as well as in municipality services. The workers are obliged to accept the situation or lose their jobs. I guess accepting peanuts is better than nothing.
Last year, there was a ministerial decision from the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs to forbid company workers performing any street work during the heat of the day. Although this order was not implemented fully by all companies, some of them actually did and realised that it is really unfair to force those poor workers to be machines or worse than a slave, until he drops dead from heat stroke. What harm would be done if they change their working hours a bit, to the afternoon or evening?
I also blame the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs for not following through on its decision and punishing those who don't follow it. As you can see, the weather in Kuwait is hot most of the year. But in summer it gets worse. The hottest point is from one to four o'clock. If it were up to me, I would say it's pretty hot all day long!
Think of the moment when you are driving your car and you stop at the traffic lights. While you are sitting in your car with its freezing air-conditioning you can see workers digging the road, painting or doing something else. All are exposed to the sun during the peak of the day. I swear there is nothing hotter than this time of the day, especially in summer. But we are not in the real summer yet! Those workers are struggling with the bad weather to make a living.
Those workers are carrying out jobs, which you wouldn't ever think of doing. We still enjoy the benefit of their work, when the roads are done and ready. If you are one of those people who spend all day in bed or in an air-conditioned office, then you may not share what those people suffer from daily. Yet, that doesn't make you free from sharing the responsibility to speak for others' basic rights. You are a member of society and we enjoy the work of those poor men. The big engineers made the plan but the workers execute it.
I believe that no matter what nationality or status these people are, we are still obliged to make their conditions better as long as they work in our county. They are our guests, no matter what. I think the local press and NGOs, such as ladies and human rights societies, should include this subject in their agendas. We all feel the heat sometimes!

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Arabian Nights on Kuwait's beaches

Kuwait Times, Monday, May 22, 2006
Muna Al-Fuzai

Today I want to shed light over the humiliation carried out by some sponsors towards their maids. Most of us may pass by this behaviour without giving it any attention.
Most families enjoy the beach these days. They love to take their kids out for a few hours. But what I can't understand is why families do not take into consideration who will take care of the children, while they are swimming, playing or buying ice cream.
I can understand if families took their maids with them to have some fun and spend some time with the family outside. Let's see what a normal housemaid does.
First of all, she is the one who takes the lion share of carrying the family's bags, balls, rugs, food etc. Secondly, she is the one who arranges all of these items according to the madam's orders. Thirdly, she is a full time guard for the children while they are swimming or playing on the beach. Fourthly, participation is compulsory and she should play with them all the time until they are exhausted or need to eat.
Fifthly, she must prepare the food for the children and if the family is kind, they may give her some food to eat, or she have to wait until they finish and give her the leftovers. Finally, when the picnic is over, she is asked to pick up all the family's items again and take them to the car. She makes sure the kids take a bath and washes all their dirty laundry for next trip. What a job!
What the maids wear for these trips is not a concern for these families. Most maids go to the pool and beach with in their kitchen clothes or what ever else she is wearing! I can understand that there are no regulations regarding what clothes to wear to swim in the sea.
But, swimming in public pools is not acceptable without proper swimming clothes.
I can imagine that her clothes might have a lot of germs. Besides, wearing a swimsuit is necessary in case she has her period. I certainly would vomit if I saw some menstrual blood in a public swimming pools, simply because a maid was forced to join a little monster when she is not suitably dressed.
Another daily humiliation practiced by some cruel sponsors involves where a family chooses to sit. The seats are usually limited to two or three people. The lady and her husband sit while the maid is kept standing all the time like the slave, except she is not carrying a fan for her masters. Come on people! This is a scene from the Arabian Nights! What you are doing is shameful and abusive to a poor person, just because she is maid and works for you. What harm can be done if she is given a space to sit or asked to go for a walk on the beach on her own, or what ever she would like to do?
I think this is abuse and those abusers need to wake up. We need awareness campaigns media to shake them from their fantasies of slavery. This is 21st century, and the days of empire are long gone.