Abyss of Autocracy: A Protest Movement Simmers in Kuwait, Part 1

Published on Spiegel Online International, by Alexander Smoltczyk, May 30, 2013 (Photo Gallery).

Why should the citizens of one of the richest countries in the world take to the streets? Fed up with the paternalizing, incompetent leadership of the ruling family, a citizen’s movement is waking in Kuwait, much to the fear of its neighbors in the Gulf … //

… They Treat Us Like Little Boys:  

Habib isn’t poor. He drives a GMC pickup truck approximately the size of a backhoe. But that’s not what this is about, al-Habib explains — it’s about rights, not wealth. Or, as Bertolt Brecht might have put it, it’s not about food, but morality.

“They treat us like little boys. Everything has to do with blood,” al-Habib says, tapping a hand against his forearm, by his veins. “You have to have the right DNA and anybody who doesn’t belong can leave. But that doesn’t work anymore. We’re grown up now.”

A civil society has formed in Kuwait, a counterbalance to the satiated, self-assured paternalism of the country’s Sunni ruling family. Formerly inviolable lines are now being crossed daily. In the public park near the bus station, a group of family members of political prisoners meets every evening for a sit-in on the prisoners’ behalf. People talk about “the speech” in cafés without lowering their voices. Orange ribbons, the color of the protest movement, hang from cars’ rearview mirrors.

It’s a true Kuwaiti protest movement, driven by citizens who, just in the last two years, have stormed parliament, forced a prime minister to resign and demanded, directly from the emir, the introduction of a constitutional monarchy.

“A year ago, at most you could criticize a minister. That was the limit. Now we talk about the ruling family, even the emir himself,” says Lama al-Fadala, a young architect. The unprecedented thing about al-Barrak’s speech, she explains, is that it was the first time someone addressed the country’s ruler directly.

Kuwait’ s Most Popular Politician: … //

… (full text).

Part 2: Life Without Rights.

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