Arab Spring Has Reached Kuwait

by DR. SAMI ALRABAA October 31, 2012

More than 10.000 Kuwaitis gathered on the 21st of  October 2012, in front of  Qasr el Seef, the administration center of the Emir, demanding real democracy in Kuwait. They also objected to the electoral "reform", which are intended to come up with a government-friendly parliament. 

Most of Kuwaitis are not demanding the removal of Al Sabah family as rulers of the country, like the Egyptians, Tunisians, and Libyans did. They simply want to have a functioning democracy, representative and transparent. The majority of Kuwaitis want the prime minister and cabinet be appointed  by a freely elected parliament and not one selected and imposed by the Emir.  

Waleed Al Tabtaba'i, an Islamist opposition leader, came up with the slogan, "Have the Emirate and leave us the government."

Thus the Arab Spring has also reached Kuwait. Al Sabah family has been ruling Kuwait for more than 250 years. After independence in the early 1960s, Kuwait opted for having a parliament, but the Emir and his family has had the executive power. He appoints the prime minister, exclusively from Al Sabah family. The elected parliament can debate any issue, and make decisions, but all this is not binding to the Emir and his government, whose members are chosen mostly from outside the parliament.

In other words, the Kuwaiti democracy has been a formal and ineffective one. It is not entitled to elect the prime minister and his cabinet. In addition, no parties are allowed in Kuwait. They are constitutionally forbidden. The Kuwaiti constitution follows the rule of the Quran, the holy book of Muslims, which literally says, "No parties" are allowed.

By the way, Kuwait, an oil-rich country, has a small population of around 900.000 people, 60% of them are Sunni Muslims and 40% are Shias, an off-branch of Islam. 

"Kuwaitis are sick and tired of all that." Mussalam Mubarak, a member of parliament, and opposition leader told me. "Kuwaitis cannot tolerate powerless democracy any longer." He added.

In a huge protest demonstration on the 16th of October, in the Irada (Will)-square, Mubarak told the protesters, "the Emirate is yours and the government is ours." He means by that, no objection to select the Emir from Al Sabah family, but he must be stripped off any kind of executive power, like the case nowadays.

The opposition is calling for boycott of the coming parliamentary elections scheduled for the 1st of December 2012.

Several members of parliament told me, Al Sabah family does everything in their power to keep the executive power in their hands. Some former members of parliament and protesters told me, this amounts to dictatorship and has nothing to do with parliamentary democracy.

For instance, the Emir, Subah Al Ahamd Al Jaber Al Subah, ordered dissolving the current parliament which was elected 4 months ago and the majority of its members (35 members out of 50) were opponents of the government, and replaced it with the parliament which had been elected in 2009, which was more favourable to the ruling family than the latest.

The country's constitutional court has previously issued a verdict to this effect. Opposition leaders accuse this court of following the wishes of the Emir.

The prime minister, Nasser Muhammad Al Ahmad, and brother of the Emir, ruled the country from 2006 to 2009 and was accused by parliament of corruption. The opposition accused him of paying millions of dollars to members of parliament in return for their support. Several embezzlement cases were debated in parliament.

Nasser Muhammad Al Ahmad was also accused of depositing millions of dollars in his private account abroad.

Although Kuwait is a rich oil and has yearly revenues of 16 billion dollars, the infrastructure of the country is decaying and corruption is visible everywhere.

Ahmad Al Saadun, a veteran Kuwaiti parliamentarian told me, "We want reforms, real reforms. We are not aspiring to kick Al Sabah family from power, as the Egyptians, Tunisians, and Libyans did. They can stay as head of the country and have a formal role, like the British monarch. The executive power must be transferred to people and their representatives. The government must be selected by an elected parliament and not directly appointed by the Emir."

The Police issued several decrees banning demonstrations. Like Al Assad regime in Syria, the Kuwaiti police dub the protesters as hooligans and rioters. Nevertheless, Kuwaitis of all ages, including women take to the street to protest against Al Sabah style of government.

Mass protests escalated in October as most Kuwaitis have already returned from their holidays which they usually spend abroad. Public protests might increase in intensity over the coming months. From my numerous talks with Kuwaitis of all strata, it seems that the majority of Kuwaitis are determined to carry on their uprising until their demands are met. "They simply want to be ruled by real democracy." Mussalam Mubarak, an opposition leader, stressed, over and over again.

The USA and western countries could and should place pressure on the Kuwaiti regime to change course and listen to the opposition, before it is too late. Lack of support by the US administration and western governments

To the democracy movement in the Arab world make the countries of these governments unpopular among Arabs and in the long run damage the interests of the Western world.

Dissidents in China, which is ruled by a totalitarian regime, are reported on and praised by Western politicians and media. Some of them even were rewarded with a Nobel Prize. That is certainly good, but also dissidents in other parts of the world deserve equally the attention and support of the West.

For instance, what about dissidents and human rights activists in Syria under the atrocious regime of Al Assad clan? George Sabra, Shahada Jneed, (both school teachers and popular politicians) and Riad Al Turk, for example, were jailed and almost daily tortured for more than 15 years. They did not steal anything and did not kill any body. They simply demanded democratic reforms and human rights. But none of them received any media coverage in the West, let alone get a Nobel Prize. All this would have raised pressure on the Syrian regime long before the recent violent uprising.  

According to several studies by leading German economic institutes, Germany is the only country that has received very few orders to reconstruct Libya. Why? Because Germany did not militarily support the revolution in Libya like the US, France, and Britain did.

On the other hand, Hillary Clinton, the American secretary of state, and Catherine Ashton, the EU commissioner for foreign affairs, urged the Ukrainian president, Viktor Yanukovych, to conduct fair elections. Fair enough!

But how about the Kuwaiti pseudo democracy?

Before the fall of Husni Mubarak of Egypt, Zein Al Al Abideen Bin Ali of Tunisia, the red carpet was rolled out for these dictators when they visited the West. Tony Blair, the former British prime minister became almost friends with the Libyan dictator clown Muammar Al Gaddafi. As all these dictators were removed, the West started calling them dictators. Weird! Isn't it?

After the liberation of Kuwait in 1991, Kuwaiti newspapers reported that Mr. Blair received from the Kuwaiti Emir 22 million dollars for delivering several speeches in Kuwait. When Blair was the prime minister of Britain, he approved an arms deal of over 20 billion US dollars to Saudi Arabia. Having said that, Blair has never demanded democratic reforms in Kuwait and Saudi Arabia. There is an Arabic proverb which goes like this, "If you feed the mouth, the eyes turn blind." This applies perfectly to Mr. Blair. 

To add insult to injury, Saudi Arabia is ruling the oil-rich empire like a state in the Middle Ages, and is helping the Bahraini regime crash the uprising.

By the way, the Saudi monarch, King Abdulla told a meeting of pilgrimage leaders, "The world must be more tolerant toward religions." This is really laughable and ludicrous, when it comes from a despot who absolutely doesn't tolerate any religion freedom in his own country. For instance, if you are caught wearing simply a cross, or holding a private holy mass in Saudi Arabia, you're jailed and later deported. For further details, check out the book: "Veiled Atrocities".

The Kuwaitis and the Saudis are friends and allies of the West, and friends should not be criticised, especially the Oil Muslims. Otherwise they would turn off the oil tap.

Long live hypocrisy! 

Dr. Sami Alrabaa, an ex-Muslim, is a professor of Sociology and an Arab-Muslim culture specialist. He has taught at Kuwait University, King Saud University, and Michigan State University. He also writes for the Jerusalem Post and is the author of the book: “Veiled Atrocities”, published by Prometheus, New York 2010 .

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