Homeless By Force, in Kuwait

By Sumayyah Meehan, Muslim Media News Service (MMNS) Middle East Correspondent

The temperatures are soaring in Kuwait. It’s too hot to breathe and even going outside for a few moments makes you so dizzy that the only option is to rush back into the safety of the air conditioning. So, what would the effects be if someone’s electricity was cut off for no reason in this unforgivable heat and then if they were kicked out of their home altogether? I say, disastrous.

There is a storm brewing in Kuwait. Locals fear a riot could break out similar to the riot which broke out in 1999 over a broken plate that a customer damaged and refused to pay for. The streets in the city of Khaitan were turned into a war zone and anything on the street: cars, buses, or garbage containers were set on fire.

The cause for the recent controversy is the number of bachelors in Khaitan. The city of Khaitan has the highest concentration of bachelors than anywhere else in Kuwait. The reason being that Khaitan has so many services that bachelors, who typically do not have transportation, utilize daily. The rent is affordable and places like the grocery store, commercial complexes and restaurants are all within walking distance, which is a rarity in Kuwait. The bachelors clearly outnumber the families in this residential area and their sheer number has left many families feeling unsettled. As a resident of Khaitan myself I have to agree that there are too many bachelors in Khaitan. Just pulling our car out of the parking lot and making it down the road takes several minutes because the streets are full of bachelors walking aimlessly while peering into passing cars.

So, the government has decided to push out the bachelors by force. One tactic was to cut off the electricity for a full city block in Khaitan where only bachelors reside. The official claim was that the bachelors had hooked up the electric illegally. But that was just an excuse. Meanwhile, the bachelors are refusing to budge and have dug in their heels. Most of them have rent agreements and have already paid rent for the entire month. So, they literally grabbed their belongings and are sleeping in the streets much to the anger of the landlords who stand to receive a pretty penny for the property. One landlord took matters into his own hands by enlisting the help of a ‘cherry picker’. He had workers pull down one of the main support walls to his building so it would be uninhabitable. Other landlords have issued eviction notices although, in court, they would not have a leg to stand on since most of their bachelor tenants have signed leases.

The government wants the bachelors out and make no mistake, the measures taken to move out the bachelors was not to appease families in Khaitan but rather for commercial gains. To understand this latest controversy you have to understand life in Kuwait. Since the fall of Saddam, the Kuwaiti construction market has exploded. Every city in Kuwait is “Under Construction” shopping malls and bazaars are going up at the blink of an eye. The landscape literally changes on a weekly basis. The same holds true for Khaitan. There are two new commercial complexes going up right near the block where the bachelors have been evicted. It is rumored that once the bachelors are out the whole block will be razed to the ground to make room for nothing other than a new strip mall.

I do feel guilty for the bachelors though. They have not committed a crime and now they have lost what little they did have, their homes. If only the government had forced the contracting companies that hire so many bachelor workers to build their own accommodations, in commercial not residential areas, then we would not be in this mess. However, since there is nowhere for the bachelors to be relocated to, I think it is safe to guess that the government will find a way to deport them back to their homelands. This ‘last resort’ is an action that the beleaguered and battle weary bachelors are not likely to take sitting down.


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