Voices from the Arab press: Give Kuwaiti women the rights they deserve

A weekly selection of opinions and analyses from the Arab media around the world.

STAYING LOCAL: A Saudi farmer displays dates to customers during Unaizah Season for Dates, in Saudi Arabia on August 15 (photo credit: AHMED YOSRI/ REUTERS)
STAYING LOCAL: A Saudi farmer displays dates to customers during Unaizah Season for Dates, in Saudi Arabia on August 15
(photo credit: AHMED YOSRI/ REUTERS)
Al-Qabas, Kuwaiti, September 4
Two weeks ago I posted a tweet that quickly went viral. In it, I demanded that Kuwaiti women be allowed to choose their own life partner while preserving the right, currently granted only to men, to reside in Kuwait.
Truth be told, I didn’t expect the tweet to become so prolific. This made me happy but also sad. Happy, because it received the attention it deserved. Sad, because I realized just how many women in Kuwait suffer from social or political norms that negatively affect them and their family. It is a shocking paradox that nearly 20,000 Kuwaiti women who are married to non-Kuwaiti men cannot get their children to be recognized by the state as legitimate residents.
All of this happens while three million expatriates from around the world enjoy residency even though they have no real connection to the country. Driven by curiosity, I looked into the number of countries that grant women the right to naturalize their children even if married to a non-citizen. I found that the number of these countries is large and growing, even within our region: It is true for Bahrain, the Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Iraq, Egypt, Algeria, Tunisia, Yemen, Mauritania, Iran and many Western countries far away from us.
Kuwait remains alone. Kuwaiti women are not even asking for citizenship for their children – just residency. But their pleas fall on deaf ears. The National Assembly and its members are spending their time taking care of their own electoral interests. Therefore, my advice to Kuwaiti women is to join forces and form an electoral bloc; only then will your voices be heard and will political representatives care about your struggles. My dear Kuwaiti sisters, let us speak in the language that politicians understand. Let us express our power now, with parliamentary elections around the corner.
Our demand for equality is our basic right, protected by the Kuwaiti constitution. As women, we have to organize and advocate for our rights. Only then will we achieve change.  
– Modhi Abdul Aziz Al-Hamoud
Al-Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, September 4
The coronavirus pandemic has made the world feel large again. The ban on international travel has separated countries and split continents, leaving people confined to their own home nation.
Thankfully, one of the big blessings of this situation has been technology, which enables employees to work from home, students to take classes virtually, and families to stay in touch through video calls. However, it is clear to all of us that these remote, virtual solutions are merely temporary. This is because human relations cannot, over time, exist at a distance. This is also true of “distance travel,” a phenomenon I recently stumbled across. Some tourism marketing companies have begun offering virtual reality packages that seemingly transport users from one country to another in an effort to mimic the experience of international travel.
Even if the technology were ripe and the experience entirely authentic, such services would still be problematic. In travel, people look for a change of place, a change of pace and a change of mindset. People want to hail a cab and talk to the local driver. They want to walk down the narrow streets of old quarters. They want to hear the local language. They want to taste local foods and explore local cultures. They even like the breakfast buffet served at their hotel. These and more cannot be achieved from afar.
The truth is that we can all put travel aside until the time and circumstances allow us to fly again. Indeed, far more important things have been disrupted in light of COVID-19. If nothing else, this is a unique opportunity for all of us: a chance to explore the tourist attractions in our very own countries and hometowns. There’s plenty of rich history and culture in our own environment yet we often rush to get on a plane and explore faraway places elsewhere in the world. The coronavirus pandemic is forcing us to rediscover the beauty in our own backyards.
– Youssef Al-Qablan
Al-Mada, Iraq, September 2
Fifty-five years ago, the Republic of Singapore declared its independence. It turned from a land of mosquito-infested bogs into a land of innovation, boasting one of the most important and influential economies in the world. What’s even more impressive than this tremendous achievement is the fact that every year, on the occasion of Singapore’s Independence Day, the country’s prime minister delivers a speech in which he promises the public to accelerate the growth rate of the economy even more in the year to come.
One can’t help but think about the stark contrast between Singapore and Iraq. We in Iraq gained independence 33 years before Singapore and yet we’re far from an industrialized country. We are plagued by corruption and the creeping menace of bureaucracy. We turned down offers of foreign investment for the fear of “jeopardizing” our values. Unlike Singapore, our country is plagued by armed militias, separatist movements and foreign mercenaries. We can’t even afford to distribute face masks to the public without taking donations from Turkey and the United Nations.
More than half a century ago, the late Lee Kuan Yew, the first prime minister of Singapore, stood in parliament and apologetically announced that his government could no longer afford to pay salaries to state employees. He expressed his deep remorse but then proceeded to articulate his vision for the future, promising to build a society that would not only be just, but also prosperous. Although Lee passed away five years ago, recent figures published by the Economist show that Singapore ranks first in Asia, and fifth in the world, in citizen prosperity. Lee’s vision was fulfilled.
Here in Iraq, we continue to hope for visionaries of his kind. And in the meantime, we can’t really celebrate our National Day. To do so, you must be free from poverty and fear. There is no real national celebration without a belief in a better future for one’s country.
– Ali Hussein
Translated by Asaf Zilberfarb.