Kuwait Gets Ready to Party
By Sumayyah Meehan, TMO Middle East Correspondent
The news that has been flooding out of the Middle East in recent months has given most humans across the world reason to pause and contemplate the realities that so many people in the region must grapple with every day. Abuses of power, exploitation, corruption and brute force are just a few of the social issues that have caused entire populations to take to the streets. For the most part it seems as if the leaders of the nations in the Middle East are collectively holding their breathes to see who will fall next and taking preventative measures, such as huge payouts to citizens, to quash dissent before it can even rear its ugly head.
Kuwait has faced its own issues this month with protests although they have been on such a small scale that the majority of major news networks have ignored them completely. However, tensions are brewing and threaten to boil over in the foreseeable future. This past week saw several days of protests led by â€œbedoonsâ€, or stateless Arabs born in Kuwait who have been demanding full Kuwaiti citizenship for decades. And a youth group of Kuwaiti nationals have promised to protest on March 8th to draw attention to the death of Kuwaiti citizen Mohammed Al-Mutairi, who was tortured and killed while in police custody over an alleged personal vendetta by one of the officers.
Despite the turmoil, Kuwait has a knack for bouncing back and a willingness to look for that silver lining. This year, the silver lining comes in the form of Kuwaitâ€™s 50th year of Independence and simultaneous 20th year of victory over the unlawful Invasion of Iraqi forces during the 1990-91 Gulf War. The occasions run concurrently on the 25th and 26th of February. The Emir of Kuwait, His Highness Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Sabah, already got â€œthe party startedâ€ this past January with the announcement that all Kuwaiti citizens will receive a cash handout of 1000 KD ($3578) and a yearâ€™s worth of free food to mark the occasions. Unfortunately, expatriates were excluded from the gift.
In yearâ€™s past, much of the populous of Kuwait have celebrated in the streets with cans of aerosol foam spray and â€œsilly stringâ€ bombarding cars and pedestrians in due measure. However, this year, the Kuwaiti Cabinet banned the sale of the party favors since it has been proven that the chemicals contained therein pose a serious health risk to humans and have a detrimental effect on the environment. Many businessmen have been forced to near ruin since they ordered mass shipments of the sprays prior to the decision and now cannot legally sell them. Fortunately, the sale of water guns and Kuwaiti flags are helping to fill part of the gap. The good news is that this year is one of the first years that there are organized programs for the public to enjoy without wreaking havoc in the streets of Kuwait.
On the day prior to the festivities, the Kuwait-based Al Sayer Group will attempt to break the Guinness Book of World records with the release of 5000 white doves into the sky to commemorate the occasions of national and liberation days. Kuwaitâ€™s Touristic Enterprises Company has organized a pair of large-scale firework displays to take place around the Kuwait Towers, which are the national landmark of the country. There is also a choreographed show planned by Kuwaitâ€™s Special Forces, a military parade and a street carnival scheduled during the two-day celebration.
The skies of Kuwait are resplendent in the colors of the national flag â€“ green, red, black and white. For the time being it looks as if Kuwaitis will be able to put their differences aside for the sake of celebrating their freedom. However, only time will tell if the festive mood will last for the duration or if it will turn into a bitter chaos similar to other parts of the Middle East.