Kuwait Follows UAE In Suspending India Flights Over COVID-19

Licensed vocational nurse Denise Saldan prepares the single-dose Johnson & Johnson Janssen Covid-19 vaccine at a vaccine rollout targetting immingrants and the undocumented in Los Angeles, California on March 25, 2021. The US is calling for a pause on April 13, 2021 on administering the Johnson & Johnson Covid-19 vaccine due to blood clotting concerns.
Frederic J. BROWN / AFP

 

 

Kuwait has suspended all flights from India until further notice after the south Asian giant recorded its highest daily COVID-19 death toll and some hospitals ran out of oxygen.

The region’s busiest international air hub, the United Arab Emirates, had already announced on Thursday that it would suspend flights to and from India from Sunday.

“In view of the health situation, it has been decided to suspend direct commercial air links with India until further notice,” the Kuwaiti government tweeted late Friday.

It said Kuwait residents would only be allowed to return to the emirate via third countries if they stopped over for at least 14 days.

Expatriate workers make up some 70 percent of Kuwait’s population and include hundreds of thousands of Indians.

As the clock ticked down to the shutdown of the air corridor between India and the UAE — one of the world’s busiest — fares soared as Indians who could afford it scrambled to escape the Covid surge.

Price comparison websites showed one-way commercial flights from Mumbai to Dubai on Friday and Saturday costing as much as 80,000 rupees ($1,000) — around 10 times the usual rate.

No tickets were on offer from Sunday when the 10-day flight suspension comes into force.

The UAE is home to roughly 3.3 million Indians who make up a third of the population — most of them in Dubai.

Beyond the Gulf, Canada suspended flights from both India and Pakistan for 30 days, while the US State Department urged Americans to avoid travel to India, even if they are vaccinated.

Concern has focussed on one new strain of the virus in particular that has spread rapidly in India and has already been detected in Europe.

Women Launch Their Own #MeToo Movement In Kuwait

#MeToo

 

 

Women in Kuwait are defying conservative norms and a culture of “shame” to speak out against harassment for the first time, in a social media campaign sparked by a popular fashion blogger.

Dozens of testimonies about being stalked, harassed or assaulted have emerged online, focused on the Instagram account “Lan Asket”, Arabic for “I will not be silent”.

Kuwaiti fashion blogger Ascia Al Faraj, who has more than 2.5 million social media followers, said in an explosive video uploaded last week that there is a “problem” in the country.

“Every time I go out, there is someone who harasses me or harasses another woman in the street,” she said in the emotionally charged video uploaded after a vehicle sped up to “scare” her while she was walking to her car.

“Do you have no shame? We have a problem of harassment in this country, and I have had enough.”

Faraj’s video sparked a nationwide movement in a country where the #MeToo campaign that took off in the United States in 2017 did not make much of an impact.

Radio and TV shows have hosted activists, lawyers and academics to discuss the issue of harassment, and the US embassy in Kuwait also threw its weight behind the women.

“A campaign worth supporting. We can all do more to prevent harassment against women, whether in the US or in Kuwait. #Lan_asket,” it said in a tweet last week.

The embassy also tweeted a striking graphic that illustrates the campaign — images of three women, one unveiled, one with a headscarf, and another with her face covered — and bearing the slogan “Don’t harass her”.

Activists have also emphasised that foreign women who make up a large portion of the Kuwaiti population, many in menial roles, are among the most vulnerable to assault and abuse.

– ‘Silence not an option’ –
Shayma Shamo, a 27-year-old doctor who studied abroad and moved back to Kuwait last year, launched the “Lan Asket” platform after seeing Faraj’s video.

“As soon as I opened the account, the messages started to pour in… from women and girls that have experienced verbal, physical and sexual harassment,” she told AFP.

Faraj said in another video uploaded later that week that she had also received “intense stories” by Indian, Pakistani and Filipina women working in Kuwait.

“The expat community here is incredibly vulnerable and are sometimes harassed at a level that Kuwaiti women will never understand,” she said.

While there has been tremendous support online, the movement has also faced a backlash from conservative voices who say women should simply dress conservatively to avoid harassment.

“Silence is no longer an option. We must speak up, unite and defend each other because what is happening is unacceptable,” Shamo told AFP.

Rothna Begum, a senior researcher at Human Rights Watch, said women were taking the fore in a society where, like many in the Middle East, police often do not take such abuses seriously, and the fear of bringing shame to families silences many.

“These accounts being published are incredibly important to give Kuwaitis a sense of what harassment actually looks like and the terrible harm it causes,” she told AFP.

– ‘Shame’ culture –
The Arabic word “ayb”, or shame in English, is a term that most girls growing up in the region learn at a very early age.

“Going to the police station is ‘ayb’ and talking about harassment is ‘ayb’,” said Shamo.

“As soon as a woman starts to speak about being harassed, the questions from family members start: What were you wearing? Who were you with? What time was it?”

But Kuwaiti women are pushing the boundaries of their society, considered one of the most open in the Gulf region, and where a law against harassment exists on the books, but where discussions about gender-based violence remain taboo.

Lulu Al-Aslawi, a Kuwait media personality whose Instagram feed features her in glossy fashion shoots, said she has been bullied online for the way she dresses.

“Girls don’t speak up over fears of being stigmatised, but we will not stop until we overcome this cancer in society,” she told AFP.

Kuwait Holds Parliamentary Election Under Shadow Of COVID-19

A Kuwaiti woman, wearing a protective mask amid the COVID-19 pandemic, casts her ballot at a polling station during parliamentary elections in Kuwait City on December 5, 2020.
Yasser Al-Zayyat / AFP

 

Kuwaitis went to the polls on Saturday in a parliamentary election overshadowed by Covid-19, with facilities laid on for citizens infected with the disease to vote in special polling stations.

The oil-rich emirate has enforced some of the strictest regulations in the Gulf to combat the spread of the virus, imposing a months-long lockdown earlier this year.

While some of those curbs have been eased, over-the-top campaign events that traditionally draw thousands for lavish banquets were absent from this year’s election, while masks remain mandatory and temperature checks are routine when venturing outdoors.

Infected people or those under mandatory quarantine are usually confined to home, with electronic wristbands monitoring their movements.

But in an effort to respect their right to vote, authorities designated five polling stations — one in each electoral district — for them to cast their ballots, among the 102 across the country.

– Dulled-down campaign –

Unlike other oil-rich Gulf states, Kuwait has a lively political life with a parliament elected for four-year terms that enjoy wide legislative powers.

Political disputes are often fought out in the open.

Parties are neither banned nor recognised, and many groups — including Islamists — operate freely as de facto parties.

But with more than 143,000 coronavirus cases to date, including 886 deaths, the election campaign has been toned down this year.

The polls, which opened at 8:00 am (0500 GMT), are the first since the new emir, Sheikh Nawaf Al-Ahmad Al-Sabah, took office in September following the death of his half-brother, Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad Al-Sabah, at the age of 91.

But with the opposition weakened in recent years, no major political shifts are expected.

A few campaign banners hoisted over the streets have been the only physical reminder of the emirate’s political calendar.

Instead, this year’s campaign has mainly been fought on social networks and in the media.

– ‘More dynamic’ –

More than 567,000 Kuwaiti voters are eligible to choose among the 326 candidates, which include 29 women.

Ahmad Deyain, secretary-general of the opposition Kuwaiti Progressive Movement, said he expected a lower voter turnout than previous years after the dulled-down campaign.

The usual themes are a constant though, from promises to fight corruption and plans to address youth employment, to freedom of expression, housing, education, and the thorny issue of the “bidoon”, Kuwait’s stateless minority.

From 2009 to 2013, and especially after the Arab Spring revolts of 2011, the country went through a period of political turmoil, with parliament and cabinets dissolved several times amid disputes between lawmakers and governments dominated by the ruling Al-Sabah family.

“Kuwait is still undergoing a political crisis since 2011, and that page has not yet turned,” Deyain told AFP.

“There are still disputes over the electoral system and mismanagement of state funds.”

Deyain said he expected some lawmakers in the new assembly to be “more dynamic” in trying to resolve some issues.

The election results are expected to be announced on Sunday morning.

Kuwait was the first Gulf Arab state to adopt a parliamentary system in 1962. Women were granted the right to vote and to stand for election in 2005.

Sheikh Meshal, Kuwait’s Top Security Official Named Crown Prince

 

Kuwait’s new emir, Sheikh Nawaf, on Wednesday named Sheikh Meshal al-Ahmad al-Jaber Al-Sabah, a long-serving top security official, as crown prince.

Sheikh Meshal, 80, has been deputy chief of the Kuwait National Guard since 2004, largely staying out of the political scene and away from disputes within the royal family.

The Sabah ruling family “blessed” Sheikh Nawaf’s decision, the official Kuwait News Agency said Wednesday, a day ahead of a parliamentary session to approve the choice.

In recent years, the ruling family has been flaunting its differences, with lurid accusations of corruption and political conspiracies lodged by some of its members against others.

Kuwait, unlike other Gulf states, has a lively political life with an elected parliament that enjoys wide legislative powers and can vote ministers out of office. Political rows often burst into the open.

Sheikh Nawaf, 83, was sworn in on September 30 after the death of his half-brother, Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad Al-Sabah, who passed away at the age of 91 after two months in hospital in the US.

The succession comes at a time when the oil-rich country is grappling with the hot topics of whether to establish ties with Israel and how to respond to low crude prices amid the coronavirus slump.

Sheikh Meshal is the seventh son of the 10th Emir of Kuwait Sheikh Ahmad al-Jaber Al-Sabah.

He is considered the most powerful man in the National Guard — an elite corps in charge of defending the emirate’s territory.

The position of chief is symbolically held by Salem al-Ali Al-Sabah, the eldest member of the Sabah ruling family.

Sheikh Meshal spent many years in the interior ministry, where he rose through the ranks to head the department of general investigation from 1967 until 1980 and was credited for strengthening its function as a state security service.

In 2016, he travelled abroad and underwent a “successful operation”, but details of the treatment were not disclosed.

-AFP

Nasarawa Seeks Oil Exploration Support From Kuwait

Nasarawa State Governor, Abdullahi Sule

 

The Nasarawa State Government has sought the support of Kuwait in its oil exploration efforts in the state.

This was disclosed in a letter delivered to the Kuwait Embassy in Abuja by his Senior Special Assistant on the Nasarawa Liaison office, Yusuf Maianguwa.

The governor explained that the support is necessary to enable the state to join the league of oil-producing states in Nigeria.

He also used the opportunity to commiserate with the Kuwait Ambassador to Nigeria, AbdulAziz AlBisher over the death of Emir Sabah al-Ahmed al-Sabah who died on September 29.

Governor Sule described the late Emir as a great freedom fighter and a global humanitarian who battled and restored the country’s international relations after the Gulf War.

While eulogising the late monarch as an astute and judicious leader, he attributed the technological and economic advancement of Kuwait through the Emir’s wealth of experience.

Similarly, the Nasarawa governor congratulated the new Emir of Kuwait, Prince Nawaf for succeeding his late elder brother and prayed that God grants him the wisdom and strength to lead Kuwait to greatness.

He called on the new leader to sustain the existing bilateral relations between Kuwait and Nasarawa State,

On his part, the Kuwait Ambassador who received the state delegation, thanked the governor for the kind gesture.

He however promised to extend the governor’s condolences to the new Emir of Kuwait.

The Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) had in 2017 said oil exploration activities would commence in Nasarawa State.

Kuwait Swears In New Emir Sheikh Nawaf Al-Ahmad

A file photo taken on February 20, 2006 shows Kuwait’s Crown Prince Sheikh Nawaf al-Ahmad al-Sabah after taking the oath in parliament. Yasser Al-Zayyat / AFP

 

Kuwait on Wednesday swore in its new emir, Sheikh Nawaf al-Ahmad Al-Sabah, and prepared to receive the body of his half-brother, the late ruler Sheikh Sabah who died in the US at the age of 91.

Sheikh Nawaf was visibly emotional as he addressed the National Assembly a day after the death of the emir, an acclaimed diplomat and mediator who ruled for 14 years.

“The precious confidence that the people of Kuwait have entrusted in us will be guarded with our lives,” the 83-year-old said after taking the oath of office.

He pledged to “serve the nation” in the address before lawmakers, who sat socially distanced and in masks, in line with coronavirus precautions.

The remains of Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad Al-Sabah are expected to arrive in Kuwait City later Wednesday, on a flight from Minnesota where he had been undergoing treatment in hospital since July.

According to the royal court, the funeral will be “restricted to the emir’s relatives” — a move likely designed to avoid large crowds amid the coronavirus pandemic. The country has already begun a 40-day period of national mourning.

Sheikh Sabah earned a reputation as a shrewd, unshakeable leader who helped steer his country through the 1990 Iraqi invasion, crashes in global oil markets and upheavals in parliament and on the streets.

World leaders and Kuwaitis alike have hailed the legacy of the late emir, architect of the nation’s modern foreign policy and mediator in some of the worst crises to grip the Gulf.

“This man was the safety valve of the Arab world, not just for Kuwait,” Bandar al-Dahani, a Kuwaiti citizen, told AFP.

“God willing, that goodness will be in Crown Prince Sheikh Nawaf and he will follow the emir’s path.”

– Generational transition looms –

Sheikh Nawaf, who has held high office for decades, takes over with Kuwait facing the repercussions of the coronavirus crisis, which triggered a sharp decline in oil prices and severe economic consequences for Gulf states.

The elder statesman, who was named heir apparent in 2006, served as defence minister when Iraqi troops rolled into the oil-rich emirate in 1990, and also as interior minister in the face of challenges from Islamist militants.

The new leader is popular within the ruling Al-Sabah family and is reported to have been a consensus choice for ruler. He also enjoys a reputation for modesty and has largely maintained a low profile.

Major policy changes are not expected during his reign, even after the Gulf underwent a seismic shift with Kuwait’s neighbours, the UAE and Bahrain, opting to establish relations with Israel.

Normalisation with the Jewish state is highly unpopular among the Kuwaiti public, which largely supports the Arab world’s historic position of demanding a resolution of the Palestinian cause before giving diplomatic concessions to Israel.

Despite expectations for a smooth succession, there could be more spirited debate over who the new crown prince should be.

Kuwait’s constitution stipulates that the ruler should be a descendant of the nation’s founder, Mubarak al-Sabah, but the throne has alternated between the descendants of his sons, Salem and Jaber, for four decades.

Contestants for the newly vacated role of crown prince include Sheikh Sabah’s son and former deputy prime minister Nasser Sabah al-Ahmed al-Sabah, a Kuwaiti political heavyweight.

“Sheikh Nawaf al-Ahmed should be viewed more as a caretaker than as a watershed new leader,” said Cinzia Bianco, a research fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations.

“Behind the scenes, however, younger princes would likely continue to compete to succeed him.”

AFP

Kuwait To Swear In New Emir After Death Of Ruler

A file photo taken on February 20, 2006 shows Kuwait’s Crown Prince Sheikh Nawaf al-Ahmad al-Sabah after taking the oath in parliament.  Yasser Al-Zayyat / AFP

 

Kuwait prepared Wednesday to swear in its new emir, Sheikh Nawaf al-Ahmad Al-Sabah, and to receive the body of his half-brother, the late ruler Sheikh Sabah who died in the US at the age of 91.

The body of Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad Al-Sabah, an acclaimed diplomat and mediator who ruled for 14 years, is expected to arrive in Kuwait City later on Wednesday. He died the day before in Minnesota where he had been undergoing treatment in hospital since July.

According to the royal court, the funeral will be “restricted to the emir’s relatives” — a move likely designed to avoid large crowds amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Kuwait’s new leader, 83-year-old Crown Prince Sheikh Nawaf, is to be sworn in at an 0700 GMT session of the National Assembly. The country has already begun a 40-day period of national mourning.

Sheikh Sabah earned a reputation as a shrewd, unshakeable leader who helped steer his country through the 1990 Iraqi invasion, crashes in global oil markets and upheavals in parliament and on the streets.

File photo of late Kuwaiti Emir Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad Al-Sabah. (AFP Photo/Yasser Al-Zayyat).

 

World leaders and Kuwaitis alike have hailed the legacy of the late emir, the architect of the nation’s modern foreign policy and mediator in some of the worst crises to grip the Gulf.

“This man was the safety valve of the Arab world, not just for Kuwait,” Bandar al-Dahani, a Kuwaiti citizen, told AFP.

“God willing, that goodness will be in Crown Prince Sheikh Nawaf and he will follow the emir’s path.”

– Generational transition looms –
Sheikh Nawaf, who has held high office for decades, takes over with Kuwait facing the repercussions of the coronavirus crisis, which triggered a sharp decline in oil prices and severe economic consequences for Gulf states.

The elder statesman, who was named heir apparent in 2006, served as defence minister when Iraqi troops rolled into the oil-rich emirate in 1990, and also as interior minister in the face of challenges from Islamist militants.

The new leader is popular within the ruling Al-Sabah family and is reported to have been a consensus choice for ruler. He also enjoys a reputation for modesty and has largely maintained a low profile.

Major policy changes are not expected during his reign, even after the Gulf underwent a seismic shift with Kuwait’s neighbours, the UAE and Bahrain, opting to establish relations with Israel.

Normalisation with the Jewish state is highly unpopular among the Kuwaiti public, which largely supports the Arab world’s historic position of demanding a resolution of the Palestinian cause before giving diplomatic concessions to Israel.

Despite expectations for a smooth succession, there could be more spirited debate over who the new crown prince should be.

Kuwait’s constitution stipulates that the ruler should be a descendant of the nation’s founder, Mubarak al-Sabah, but the throne has alternated between the descendants of his sons, Salem and Jaber, for four decades.

Contestants for the newly vacated role of crown prince include Sheikh Sabah’s son and former deputy prime minister Nasser Sabah al-Ahmed al-Sabah, a Kuwaiti political heavyweight.

“Sheikh Nawaf al-Ahmed should be viewed more as a caretaker than as a watershed new leader,” said Cinzia Bianco, a research fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations.

“Behind the scenes, however, younger princes would likely continue to compete to succeed him.”

AFP

OPEC Turns 60 At ‘Critical Moment’ For Virus-hit Oil

In this file photo taken on November 29, 2016, the logo of OPEC is pictured at the OPEC headquarters on the eve of the 171th meeting of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries in Vienna, Austria. JOE KLAMAR / AFP
In this file photo taken on November 29, 2016, the logo of OPEC is pictured at the OPEC headquarters on the eve of the 171th meeting of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries in Vienna, Austria. JOE KLAMAR / AFP

 

OPEC faces a critical moment in its 60-year history with the coronavirus crushing crude demand and prices, discord among its members, and threats from a world seeking cleaner fuels.

Founded on September 14, 1960, by Iraq, Iran, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and Venezuela who sought to control crude oil output, OPEC currently comprises 13 members including nations from Africa and Latin America.

The 60th anniversary “comes at a critical moment in its history”, UniCredit analyst Edoardo Campanella said in reference to the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries.

“Its ability to steer the oil market in its favour has never been put in question to the extent it is now,” he noted.

– ‘Relevant role’ –

The Vienna-based institution convenes for regular meetings to assess the state of supply and demand in the marketplace, and its pronouncements can still spark major price swings.

That ability has dimmed in recent years however, prompting it to join forces with ten non-OPEC producers including Russia to curb their collective output.

OPEC+ essentially wanted to counter surging energy supplies from shale rock in the United States and help clear a stubborn supply glut on world markets.

Today, OPEC pumps about one third of global oil — but OPEC+ accounts for almost 50 percent, giving it greater clout.

Carlo Alberto de Casa, trader at Activtrades, insisted that the cartel retains a “relevant” function in the market, dismissing talk the organisation was a “has-been”.

“They are slightly less influential compared to the past, also due to production of non-OPEC countries and new extraction techniques. But I still see a role for OPEC,” he told AFP.

This despite the larger OPEC+ in March failing to agree on a new strategy — with Russia refusing cartel kingpin Saudi Arabia’s request to cut their collective output and combat a virus-fuelled slump in crude demand.

In response, top global exporter Saudi slashed its prices and raised output to preserve market share in the face of Russian opposition.

The Saudi-Russian price war, in tandem with the worsening Covid-19 pandemic, sent oil prices off a cliff — and even caused New York’s light sweet crude contract to briefly turn negative in April — meaning producers paid buyers to take the oil off their hands.

After the unprecedented market crash, OPEC+ in May slashed up to a fifth of its output — a move that triggered a sharp rebound in crude prices to current levels around $40 per barrel.

Added to the supply backdrop, the United States, now the world’s biggest oil producer, curbed the pace of costly shale extraction.

Rystad Energy analyst Paola Rodriguez-Masiu, while noting that OPEC has lost market share in recent years, said the cartel still has an important role to play because it possesses the largest amount of accessible crude.

This meant that extracting its oil resulted in fewer carbon emissions, she said.

“I would argue that OPEC would become more and more important” in the future, she concluded.

AFP

Kuwait’s Emir Travels To US For Medical Treatment

Kuwaiti Emir Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad Al-Sabah issued a decree dissolving the Gulf state’s parliament (AFP Photo/Yasser Al-Zayyat)

 

 

Kuwait’s 91-year-old ruler Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad Al-Sabah left for the United States Thursday to undergo medical treatment, his office said, days after he had surgery for an undisclosed illness.

The emir, who has ruled the oil-rich Gulf state since 2006, had been in hospital since the weekend.

Sheikh Sabah “left the country today at dawn to go to the United States to complete his medical treatment”, his office said in a statement cited by state news agency KUNA.

Earlier, it had said he would make the journey “based on the advice of his medical team to complete treatment following the successful surgery”.

The statements did not reveal the nature of his illness, the type of surgery he had undergone in Kuwait, or what treatment was planned in the US.

In September 2019, he underwent medical tests shortly after arriving in the United States, leading to a meeting with President Donald Trump being called off.

The emir had his appendix removed in 2002, two years after having a pacemaker fitted. In 2007, he underwent urinary tract surgery in the United States.

Under Kuwaiti law, when the emir is absent, crown prince Sheikh Nawaf al-Ahmad Al-Sabah, 83, the emir’s half-brother, is appointed acting ruler.

Sheikh Nawaf is an elder statesman who has held high office for decades, including the defence and interior portfolios.

Sheikh Sabah argued last year for de-escalation in the Gulf as tensions surged between the US and its arch-foe Iran.

He is widely regarded as the architect of modern Kuwait’s foreign policy.

 

 

-AFP

Kuwait Probes Drone That ‘Intruded’ On Day Of Saudi Strike

Smoke billows from an Aramco oil facility in Abqaiq about 60km (37 miles) southwest of Dhahran in Saudi Arabia’s eastern province on September 14, 2019. PHOTO: AFP

Kuwait is investigating accounts that a drone intruded its airspace and flew over the royal palace Saturday, the same day a devastating strike was launched on Saudi oil infrastructure.

Yemen’s Huthi rebels — who are aligned with Tehran — claimed the attack on two oil facilities which cut Saudi production by half, but the United States has blamed Iran and there is also speculation the assault may have been launched from Iraq.

Baghdad on Sunday denied any link to attacks on Saudi oil plants, saying it is “constitutionally committed to preventing any use of its soil to attack its neighbours”.

But Iraq is home to several Iran-backed militias and paramilitary factions, putting it in an awkward situation amid rising tensions between its two main sponsors, Tehran and Washington.

Media reports speculated that a drone travelling south from Iraq to the eastern oilfields of Saudi Arabia could have travelled over the sea or through Kuwait’s airspace.

Kuwait’s Alrai newspaper said that at dawn on Saturday, an unmanned drone about the size of a small car came down to a height of about 250 metres over the palace, before turning on its lights and flying away.

Kuwait’s Prime Minister Sheikh Jaber Mubarak Al-Sabah has ordered the beefing up of security measures around vital installations in the country, according to a government statement posted on Twitter on Sunday.

“Security officials have started the necessary investigation regarding the drone that was seen flying  over the coastal area of Kuwait City,” it said.

Another newspaper, Al-Rai, said that the drone continued for a considerable period of time and flew over the seaside residential palace of Emir Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad Al-Sabah who is undertaking medical tests in the United States.

Kuwait is an OPEC member which has land borders with Iraq and Saudi Arabia and shares sea borders with Iran.

AFP

Lawmaker Sentenced To Seven Years In Prison For ‘Tricking’ Wife

 

A Kuwaiti court on Monday sentenced an opposition politician to seven years in jail for failing to tell his wife he divorced her and continuing to have sexual relations with her, her lawyer said.

Waleed al-Tabtabai, an Islamist who is currently outside Kuwait, already faces a 42-month jail term handed down in July in another case for storming parliament and assaulting police.

The appeals court on Monday upheld a 2018 verdict finding him guilty of adultery, said the lawyer, Naser al-Otaibi, adding the ruling was not political.

“My client received justice after she was taken advantage of and tricked into something that criminalises her under sharia (Islamic) law,” he told AFP.

The lawyer said his client had found out her husband divorced her in 2017 — a year later — after she sued him for failing to provide for her and their child.

“Evidence was brought forward that they continued a marital relationship during the time they were divorced, including an exchange of intimate pictures via WhatsApp,” he said.

Tabtabai is currently outside of Kuwait amid government discussions on whether or not to unseat him from parliament.

AFP

Kuwaiti Girls Use Martial Arts To Counter Bullies And Violence

Kuwaiti women practise hybrid martial art Kajukenbo in a club in Kuwait City on October 22, 2018. PHOTO: YASSER AL-ZAYYAT / AFP

 

In a small hall in Kuwait City, women and girls in black uniforms gather to learn the basics of self-defence.

Asma Hasnawi and her daughter Riham spend more than 12 hours a week learning kajukenbo, a mixed martial art the mother says boosts her child’s confidence and thwarts bullying.

On their left sleeves are the flags of Kuwait and the US state of Hawaii, where the hybrid martial art of kajukenbo was developed in the 1940s.

The sport’s name was derived from the various forms of martial arts it includes: karate (KA), judo and jujitsu (JU), kenpo (KEN) and boxing (BO).

Each form teaches techniques that can be used to fend off an attack, says Hasnawi, 33, who stands in class alongside her 12-year-old daughter and other girls.

“I initially wanted to explore this sport, but I continued to practise it to be able to defend myself,” she tells AFP.

Hasnawi still remembers being bullied as a child — something her daughter has struggled with at school too.

But she says Riham has “changed a lot” since they started practising kajukenbo, gaining patience and strength through the sport.

“She has transformed. At school, she used to get really angry and quickly agitated if someone would say something to her,” Hasnawi says.

“Now, it’s something normal that she can (healthily) deal with.”

There is no recent data in Kuwait on cases of violence against women, who enjoy more freedoms than those in neighbouring countries.

A 2010 study found that a woman is assaulted a day in Kuwait, according to Ghada al-Ghanem, of the Women’s Cultural and Social Society (WCSS).

The WCSS, whose goal is to help and encourage women’s participation in the Kuwaiti community, has dealt with a number of assault cases and Ghanem believes the actual figure may be higher.

‘Strength and honour’

Hung on the red and black walls of the Street Warrior Academy is a poster of two men practising the sport.

“Kajukenbo teaches your child the methods and arts of self-defence,” it reads, complimenting the mottos of “strength and honour” and “street warrior” on the backs of the girls’ uniforms.

The students closely watch their instructor, Faisal al-Gharib, as he explains how to counter an attack with the help of his son.

The girls then pair up to take what they have learnt and put it into practise.

In another instance, the instructor’s son mimics an attack with a wooden knife on one of the more experienced pupils, who wears a black belt.

Already familiar with the exercise, the student explains: “I pretend that I have surrendered… and then I grab his hand on my neck, push it down and move it away.”

More than 120 girls and women between the ages of four and 50 participate in the academy’s different kajukenbo classes, which are held in a room with training weapons lining its walls.

Some 40 men and boys also currently take part in kajukenbo classes at the club on different days from the women.

For Um Saleh, the sport has helped her twin 13-year-old daughters become more independent and decisive.

“It gave them something to focus on other than social media,” she says.

 ‘Boosting self-confidence’

Kuwaiti women practise hybrid martial art Kajukenbo in a club in Kuwait City on October 22, 2018. PHOTO: YASSER AL-ZAYYAT / AFP

 

Gharib, the instructor, established the academy in 2014 after learning kajukenbo in the United States. He says he wanted to teach the sport to women back home as a way to stay fit and to defend themselves against any attack.

As part of the training, he presents his students with different scenarios, including assaults and knife attacks.

“We focus on self-defence skills and place the girls in conditions similar to those on the street so we can build their self-confidence and teach them exactly when and where to expect the hit,” Gharib says.

The academy, which has a strict confidentiality policy, has become a safe haven for many girls and women that have been victims of assault or bullying.

It is one of dozens of similar clubs and academies that have opened in Kuwait as kajukenbo gains popularity. Although in the rest of the Gulf, the sport remains relatively unknown.

“Being a (victim) of assault, whether in school or on the street, is what pushed some of these girls and women to pursue the sport,” says Fai al-Fahed, one of the instructors.

“Ultimately, girls are embracing this kind of martial art and we see it boosting their self-confidence.”

Khalida Bashir says she was drawn to kajukenbo after watching clips of the sport online.

“I used to be afraid of everything, but this sport changed me,” she tells AFP.

“I have become more confident and more patient. Some say this is a man’s sport, but that is, in fact, not true.

AFP