Anti-Racism in Kuwaiti Elections

Filed under Middle East

By Mona Kareem

When Kuwait’s constitutional court ruled in favor of the emir’s amendment of the voting law, supporting minorities were used as a reason. The debate over the validity and practicality of the one-vote law (instead of the older law that allows four votes for each citizen) is ongoing as politicians boycott elections or announce their candidacy.
One of the names in favor of the amendment right from the beginning is Kuwaiti activist Abdullah Fairouz, who is mostly known for his support of the Bedoon. He has been active for the cause of Kuwait’s stateless for over four years now through the “Nebras” group that also supports migrant workers. He has recently announced his intention to run for the elections set to take place in July, although the date might change to meet constitutional measures.

Before announcing this decision, Fairouz has been filing cases against the cabinet, the prime minister, and other officials over cases of corruption or for deprivation of legal rights. He is mostly known for his arrest following charges of insulting the judiciary. He has also filed a case against the Ministry of Interior Affairs for signing a secret contract with an Israeli security company, which violates the anti-normalization law that Kuwait has signed in the 60’s regarding relations with Israel. Since he announced his candidacy, the attacks on Fairouz are getting more hideous, especially in racist forms using his Egyptian roots as the point of criticism.
The racist slurs were sarcastic, denouncing how an Egyptian would be seated in their parliament, thus making it clear how politics is an exclusive club for a certain class of families. His candidacy, regardless of the results, challenges this notion of politics as a privilege only suitable for “the old families” and the big tribes. This explains why black Kuwaitis or Kuwaitis who are naturalized Arabs from the 60s have no place in popular politics. It also explains why the Shia want to run in the first district where a large number of Kuwaiti Shia live.
Following the publication of his leaked personal documents by two newspapers (one of them, Al-Watan is owned by a ruling family member), the insults directed at Fairouz over the Internet tell him to “go back to Egypt.”
When asked why his mother married his father in urfi form, he answered: “That’s what Kuwaiti men do to hide the marriage from their other wives!” which speaks of how non-Kuwaiti Arab women are imagined for Kuwaiti masculinity.
In the same interview, Fairouz stated that he wants to work for the rights of citizenship of the stateless and for laws that protect migrant workers (called expatriates in Kuwait). He described the recent raids and deportations of migrant workers as “unconstitutional” because they are denied the right to go to court.
Fairouz has also experienced statelessness when his case of citizenship was still in court as he was carrying the “grey passport” given to some Bedoon, which is actually a travel document, not recognized by many countries including those of the GCC.
The racism directed at Fairouz says much about discrimination against migrants, the stateless, and marginalized citizens. His difference from the opposition is an insistence to be a third voice, but it can also be seen as a way to stay away from state and social hostility directed against them.
He refuses to march in unauthorized protests yet he does not question how unconstitutional and violating it is to demand authorizations from the power you are protesting against. He demands that people practice their right to sue authorities without recognizing how political the judiciary system is. Despite all, the case of this particular activist-turned-candidate might open a discussion that Kuwait is in much need of over discrimination and marginalization of certain groups in politics. This might be a good test for the new voting law to prove if the court’s claim about minorities is true.
* Published in alakhbar

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