Designers Tap into the Saudi Market: Abaya Bling


This proves there is a market for just about everything. From The Telegraph. On a related note, Sarkozy´s comments about the burka last week stirred quite a bit of controversy. France and the United States at this point seem to be pulling at opposite ends of the abaya in their efforts to reach out to Muslim cultures.

Sarkozy was quoted at Versailles as stating that the burqa would not be welcome in France and that the clothing converts women into prisoners behind a screen-a subservient condition that is incompatible with France´s values of equality of the sexes. Unfortunately, the truth behind these statements is that religious freedom of expression seems to be at dogmatic odds with France´s historical precondition of cultural assimulation for immigrants. In France, Muslim acceptance is strongly linked with the immigration debate and has philosophically backed France against the wall.

While France is stuck trying to draw a logical flowchart between is founding principles of
¨liberté, égalité, fraternité¨ and policies dealing with the veil, US President Obama took a turn in a different PR direction in his Cairo Speech when he stated that he would not interfere with a woman´s right to wear the veil in the United States. The United States, although based on some of the same secular principles as the France, has never hidden its light embrace of faith in the public sphere, feeling less internal conflict than its transatlantic neighbor-albeit normally reserved for the exercise of Christianity. However, with Obama´s speech, he ensured that Islam would and should receive similiar treatment.

Perhaps the most fascinating detail in these two dramatic policy statements/outbursts by these traditional Western ¨frenemies¨ is the CHOICE of garment for Muslim women that was evoked in said presidents´ speeches. While Sarkozy evoked the burqa (the most extreme level of conservatism in Muslim covered dress for women), Obama used the hijaab (with a pronunciation glib) as his frame of reference for a Muslim woman´s right to exercise her religion through her dress. A chance that the choice of images they summon in clothing might be symbolic of their insecurities and respective levels of threat? Perhaps. In any case, abaya blinging out is certainly keeping French designers happy and in business in the meantime.

¨A horsewoman in a flowing, made-to-measure Islamic gown atop a snorting steed opened the fashion show on Thursday at the George V Hotel in Paris.

Abayas are the body-covering black robes some Muslim women don over their clothing in public, usually accompanied by a head scarf or niqab, the face veil that covers all but the eyes.

Designers who tried their hand at making over the abaya, which is required in Saudi Arabia, included Christian Dior's artistic director John Galliano, French luxury labels Nina Ricci and Jean Claude Jitrois and Italian houses Blumarine and Alberta Feretti.

The show began with a bang, as the carrot-topped cavaliere - decked out in a Galliano-designed abaya exploding with firework of coloured sequins and dangling fringe - rode her mount into the hotel's subterranean salon.

Twenty models followed on foot, wearing abayas heavy with rhinestones or airy in gauzy fabrics.

"I realised that most of the Saudi clients are wearing designer brands, but they're covered by a black abaya," said Dania Tarhini, the show's organiser and a general manager of Saks Fifth Avenue in Saudi Arabia. "It is an obligation to wear the abaya there, but let them feel good about it."

The timing of the Paris show was propitious: four days earlier, Nicolas Sarkozy, the French president, struck a nerve in the Muslim world by declaring that full-body veils such as the burka are "not welcome" in France, saying they make women prisoners. A top Muslim group in Britain called Mr Sarkozy "patronising and offensive." Lebanon's most influential Shia cleric called on Mr Sarkozy to reconsider his comments....¨ (click here for full article)

Drive-By Heckling


Incidences of young Kuwaiti males in groups heckling pedestrians from their car seem to be quite a prevalent nuisance. My friend described to me a situation where a group of young teenage boys approached a South Asian cleaner in a blue suit picking up trash on the side of the Gulf Road one morning. They drove next to him and stuck out a hand with a ten dinar bill in between their fingers, like a tip for the cleaner.

The cleaner of course dropped everything to run for it, and had to make an effort too as the boys were slowly rolling forward-sort of the same way you would get amusement playing with your cat and a laserpointer. Once the man caught up to them, they quickly put their hand in the car and sped off, leaving the man on the side of the road.

My friend said the most upsetting thing about witnessing all this was seeing the man´s face after the boys took off. He looked completely dejected and like he was about to cry.

I have also seen once boys throwing trash at someone who was walking on the side of the road talking on a cell phone. Is this a social problem that is on the rise? There is an underlying racism in these acts of humiliation of others for fun, as well as an amoral and narcissistic assumption that other people in this world have less worth and value as human beings than oneself. I really believe in a thing called karma for these violations.

BBC News in Saudi Arabia: "Free wedding for quitting smoking"


"A charity in the Saudi capital Riyadh has come up with a novel incentive to encourage young men to quit smoking - an all-expenses-paid wedding.

Hundreds of men have expressed interest in the anti-smoking drive, including a non-smoker who was ready to start the habit just so he could take part.

Banners in Riyadh are advertising the campaign slogan: "Kicking the habit is on you, and marriage is on us."

In much of the Arab world, the groom alone bears the cost of a wedding.

The charity Purity says participants will complete a seven-day course to quit smoking.


The name of the grand prize winner will be decided in a draw on 6 August. Twenty runners-up will get free furniture.

The high expense for a wedding means that Arab men often put off marriage until they have saved enough money to take a bride.

Some in Saudi Arabia have criticised the campaign, suggesting it might devalue what they consider a holy union, while others called the concept sexist.

But a spokesman for the charity said the aim was to create a smoke-free family.

"The fact that people are discussing the campaign means we have fulfilled our goal of spreading the word about it," said Salem al-Majdali.

It is estimated about a quarter of Saudi Arabia's 27.6 million residents smoke."(link here)

Review: Pecha Kucha Night Kuwait, 2nd Edition


In life, elements are most often judged as parts of a whole and this exactly why the inaugural session of Pecha Kucha Night Kuwait earlier this year seemed to gel. PKNK1 seemed to have a common thread tying many of the presentations together: the loss of identity and social cohesion in an urban landscape dominated by a myopic vision of modernity. PKNQ81 announced itself loudly with its statements, its pleas for change and call to action, all the while balancing the larger picture with targeted ideas for innovation.

This larger mission was notably absent at PKNQ82. Although the quality of many of the artists who presented was impressive, there was no symbiotic interaction of ideas between them. Moreover, the artists did not seem as concentrated on engagement of the audience (although some made a good effort) and instilling them with the values to which they wish to draw attention.

Ahmed Al Refaie: Digital Artist (
A meticulous painter with a penchant for drawing cyber-pirate-mermaid women with uncanny resemblance to Angelina Jolie as well as urban landscapes of the imagination. An impressive array of work, but I would have liked to seen the paintings in person in a gallery to spend enough time examining all the detail work. He himself seemed to acknowledge the frustration of viewing his work through 20 second slides as it did not do justice to the most probably pain-staking long nights spend coloring on the drawing board. I would have liked him to open up a little bit more about his motivation for his subjects and common themes.

Raffi Armoudjian: Architect (The Integrated Architectural Experience)
Unfortunately, I believe this speaker had a great amount of interesting messages to deliver to the audience, but his attempt to squeeze as much information as possible into each slide made so that the delivery was overly rushed and at some points, a bit unintelligible. This is really a shame because I think he had some very opinionated and worthy ideas and points. I did catch in his conclusion that more emphasis needs to be placed on teaching children through education softer skills about how to be creative, a productive member of society through innovation and how to learn to appreciate and recognize art.

Dr. Shurooq Amin: Artist. Poet (Ekphrasis: the Missing Link between Art and Poetry) (
One of my favourite presentations. This is a poet (ok and artist) who has talent and is clearly passionate about what she does, bringing a rare confidence, vision and steadfastness to her belief in the presentation's idea of blending poetry with art. The poems she chose for each piece of art (some of which she wrote herself) were beautiful and well-suited for the pieces of visual art--much more than my skeptical self was originally expecting. In short, she sold me her idea, and elegantly in the process.

Nada Alshammari: Graphic Artist (Kuwait Narratives: Short Sharp Shocks)
Too much theory without any demonstration of the discourse in the Kuwait context. It seemed to be that the presentation was to be on spontaneous artistic use of public space in Kuwait-otherwise known as graffiti art. But where is all this graffiti? This was the great phantom in the discussion. I would have liked to see more about how she is certain that there are rumbles and stirs of people in Kuwait beginning to create short, sharp shocks in this manufactured, non-improvisational, cut-and-paste landscape.

Samer Mohammed: Student, Kuwait University (Architecture in Media and Influences)
Very interesting presentation, but like Ms. Danah's, it came off more as a book report. Nonetheless, this is a topic I find interesting, especially with his mention of Blade Runner and Los Angeles as maximum city (for anyone who has read City of Quartz by Mike Davis). But I would have liked to know what the role of the media is in influencing Kuwait's architectural vision and urbanscape.

Danah Al Rubabah: Student, Kuwait University (Behind a Woman's Face)
The title of her presentation had me transfixed and anticipating the presentation from the beginning, but I was disappointed to find out that the topic was simply an encyclopedic book report about a female artist (daughter of Mohammed Bushanaq. To put it simply, PKN is an inappropriate platform for such a presentation. She brought nothing of her own to the topic, it was more likes he was reporting as a spokeswoman for this artist. Furthermore, I never really understood why she was so enamored by the artist in the first place.

Bassem Mansour: Artist. Designer (Intention and Intuition: Its just a game)
My intuition was simply not potent enough to grasp the artist's intention, although my curiosity was piqued by his analysis of architecture and feelings of security.

Nofal Abdelali: Architect (Towards a New Pedagogy through Architecture: Educational Facilities in Kuwait)
Again, a visual presentation of an artist's portfolio, without the wind of a great, single idea behind it. Plus, the projects he presented had little to do with Kuwait in particular.

Monstar Co-Owner and Creative Director of (Fun Things for Fun People)
His high-set bar of a title definitely lived up to expectations, this guy came out onto the stage with the perfect amount of energy needed to really wrap up the event in a positive, enthusiastic way. A great coda to the evening for sure. And all though he seemed to have many spontaneous, stream-of-consciousness thoughts ping ponging around the room--somehow it worked for him. His fetish for burka ladies will surely not go unforgotten. The great thing about this speaker is that he was able to sell his idea, with enthusiasm, confidence, but also look like he was having fun in the process. He almost doubled as a stand-up comedian.

Pecha Kucha Night No. 2


Review will be up shortly

Op-Ed by Dr. Shamlan Yousef AlـIssa in Al-Watan Daily: "Dealing with human rights abuse in Kuwait"


An interesting opinion piece that criticizes the pervasive denial among Kuwaiti government officials in reaction to the US State Department's Human Rights Report.

The U.S. State Department''s annual report on human rights abuse has raised a storm of protests and rejection by the Kuwaiti government and members of the National Assembly because the report accused Kuwait of human trafficking and human rights abuse. The report confirmed that there were more than 500,000 women working as domestic workers in Kuwait, most of them hailing from Asia. The report indicated that most of those women are being subjected to forced labor by their sponsors such as physical abuse, sexual abuse and nonـpayment of salaries with the intention of forcing them to continue working under horrid conditions. The report also accused the Kuwaiti government of not committing itself to even the minimum attempts towards the elimination of human trafficking.

Politicians slammed the report and launched a vigorous campaign against the United States. The National Assembly Speaker Jassem AlـKharafi has confirmed that Kuwait is not a "State of Angels" and expressed concern that the U.S. has appointed itself as a watchdog over other countries.

A group of MPs have also rejected the report and accused the U.S. of being biased against Kuwait. The Kuwaiti government deemed the report as unfair and unjust while the minister of Social Affairs and Labor spoke about steps taken by the government in improving the expatriates'' living conditions.

The U.S. State Department''s report however, also mentioned some positive steps taken by the government of Kuwait but confirmed that there were still many existing issues that need to be rectified. Personally, the report did not surprise me because we have repeatedly called upon the Kuwaiti government, through the press and the Human Rights Society, to initiate legal action against all offenders in order to avoid being accused by international human rights organizations. More than 30 years ago, I had written a thesis on employment in Kuwait and I had then stressed upon the magnitude of injustice and human rights violations in the treatment of domestic and expatriate workers. Later, I became a member of the board of directors of the Human Rights Society. The members of that society and I, for more than 10 years, tried and are still trying to urge the government to expedite the enactment of laws protecting foreign workers estimated at about two million and constitute the backbone of the Kuwaiti economy. They represent more than 70 percent of the workers while the percentage of citizens in the labor market does not exceed 18 percent of the total workers and most of them work in the government sector.

The U.S. Department of State''s report is indeed realistic, fair and just because the human rights abuses in Kuwait have exceeded all parameters. Despite attempts by the MPs and the government to conceal the truth, evidence remains crystal clear against Kuwait concerning the inhumane practices imposed on expatriate workers in general and domestic workers in particular.

What is the evidence which proves that Kuwait is indeed involved in violating human rights? The reports of the United Nations and specifically the Arab Human Development reports, from 2002 until 2006 refer to the magnitude of inhumane abuses imposed on domestic workers. The reports of the Kuwaiti Human Rights Society condemn such practices and local newspapers publish, on a daily basis, stories of sexual abuse by the citizens and their children against domestic workers. Newspapers have also reported sexual attacks on domestic workers by police officers.

MPs have raised the issue more than once and formed parliamentary committees but yet nothing has changed and no action has been initiated against visa traders.

Expatriate workers in cleaning companies and other companies have time and again organized demonstrations calling for their rights. How did we deal with all those who simply called for their rights? We assaulted and deported them without any trials. Why didn''t we apply the law? Don''t we always claim that we live in a democratic country?

Finally, I advise the speaker of the Parliament, MPs and media persons to heed the advice of the U.S. which is a friendly country instead of criticizing U.S. policies for personal and partisan reasons. (for link, click here)

The Economist: City Liveability Ranakings


Book Wishlist: Heavy Metal Islam by Mark LeVine


All this talk about devil-worshipers, goths, local hip hop and independent radio got me noticed by a follower who suggested this book to me. Has anyone read it. I added it to the wishlist at Here is the book's website:

Star Juice


I do not tend to post personal raves and rants, but this little company deserves it. I love Star Juice. I love how their menu selection consists of drinks named after outdated early 90's stars like the Bruce, the Julia, the Cindy and the Claudia.

Al Watan Daily: "The Butlers Kuwaiti documentary movie to hit movie screens soon"


Mixed reactions to this movie, but I will definitely be one of the first ticket purchasers. Mr. Al-Anjiri should have a screen filming that allows a question and answer period afterward. He should invite several members of society, including expat associations, human rights groups including the Kuwait Social Work Society and members of government, including the Labor Ministry.

It is no coincidence that Al-Watan Daily is mentioning a movie "to hit soon in theatres" on the Friday edition of news in the same week after Kuwait was attacked by both the Philippines and United States for its human rights record. The last paragraph of the article made me lose my patience. I bolded the parts. THOSE STRAY CASES ARE THE REASONS FOR INTERNATIONAL INDIGNATION. They may be stray, but that does not mean they are few. Also, they are cases with circumstances that just keep repeating and repeating themselves-stories that sound similar-which means that reform is needed to break the cycle. I refer you to the blog of the KSWS (

"Film Producer Abdulaziz AlـAnjiri said that the documentary film titled The Butlers will hit Kuwaiti movie screens soon. He said the movie took almost a year to shoot which was shot extensively in Kuwait and India. The editing process too required a lot of time with considerable efforts put in by the crew. The movie is featured in Arabic with English subtitles thus addressing His Highness the Amir Sheikh Sabah AlـAhmad AlـSabah''s desire in regaining Kuwait''s reputation over human rights abuse.

Abdulaziz AlـAnjiri commended the wholehearted support and encouragement given by His Highness the Amir, His Highness the Prime Minister Sheikh Nasser AlـMohammed AlـSabah and the Deputy Minister of Information Sheikh Faisal AlـSabah. He also commended the role of the Assistant Undersecretary for Public Television Fawzi AlـTemimi who was keen on having the film released on prime time television presented by Kuwait Television.

The film is directed by Yareb BuـRahma and Abdulaziz AlـMershed along with Yousef Haider from the public relations management. The movie''s technical crew conducted several interviews with the EditorـinـChief of AlـQabas Newspaper Waleed AlـNesef who gave valuable insights about the freedom of the press in reporting human rights abuses along with interviews with Ghanim AlـNajar who has valuable experience in the field of human rights around the world and the Reverend Pastor Emmanuel Ghraib and many other personalities that have played pivotal roles in the context of the film. He said the film will represent Kuwait at the Global Festival in the documentary films category.

The movie is a social documentary and doesn''t seek to rake in profits like other movies since it intends to send out a message that would positively reflect Kuwait to the entire world and refute some of the allegations made by global human rights associations who project Kuwait in a bad light. The film portrays expatriate laborers in Kuwait enjoying free healthcare facilities, tax free salaries, annual holidays and freedom of religious practices. The movie does not portray some stray individual cases of abuse and violations in Kuwait since many foreigners respect Kuwaiti laws and love to work and live in Kuwait." (for link to article, click here)

Daily Show in Iran


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Call for Independent Radio in Kuwait


I wonder if the title is as elusive and mythical a creature as Pegasus, Yedi or the Minotaur, but I have to say that I am aching for a radio revolution in Kuwait. I have the unfortunate circumstance of having coworkers who insist on playing 99.7 at all working hours.

Besides the songs being BAD, they also rotate the same 40 songs without respite. It sounds like someone left an ITUNES gym workout playlist on by accident. Will independent radio come to Kuwait? Do universities have their own radio stations? Is there an interest in this? What happened to the art of music selection by DJs?

"UN-HABITAT's flagship report, the State of the World’s Cities is now available in Arabic"


From UN HABITAT. Bahrain is really taking the active lead on mainstreaming the Gulf countries into the United Nations community.

Bahrain, 7 Jun 09: UN-HABITAT's flagship report, the State of the World’s Cities is now available in Arabic, thanks to funding and support provided by the Government of Bahrain.

At the launch of the Arabic version of the report in Bahrain on 7 June, Mrs. Anna Tibaijuka, Executive Director of UN-HABITAT, said that the Arabic version of the report would assist greatly in making the report accessible to people in the region.

The Prime Minister of Bahrain, Shaikh Khalifa Bin Salman Al Khalifa, presented Mrs. Tibaijuka with the Bahrain Medal of Honour in recognition of her commitment to sustainable human settlements development. Bahrain is currently drawing up a blueprint for urban development that will protect the natural environment and provide schemes for low-income housing. The city, in partnership with UN-HABITAT, is also setting up local urban observatories that will collect and analyse urban indicators.

Prime Minister Shaikh Khalifa Bin Salman Al Khalifa, presents Mrs. Tibaijuka with the Bahrain Medal of Honour.

Al Watan Daily: "U.S. keeps Kuwait on human trafficking blacklist"


"Although Kuwait''s ranking on the U.S. State Department''s Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Report remained at Tier III, the report noted that the Kuwaiti government has begun to examine this issue in a more serious light.

The United States on Tuesday added six African countries to a blacklist of countries trafficking in people, and put U.S. trading partner Malaysia back on the list.
Staying on the blacklist list are U.S. allies Saudi Arabia and Kuwait but also Cuba, Fiji, Iran, Myanmar, North Korea, Papua New Guinea, Sudan, and Syria, according to the State Department report for 2009.

"This year''s TIP Report for Kuwait notes that elements of the government of Kuwait and the Kuwaiti public have begun to examine this issue in a more serious light, and are looking forward to further progress," said the U.S. Embassy in a press release on Tuesday.

It added that the report, which was also issued on Tuesday, included reports on 180 countries, in addition to the United States.

The annual TIP Report is mandated by the U.S. Congress and it scrutinizes the measures that the government of each country has undertaken to combat this problem. The TIP Report however, is not based on the level of TIP present in any individual country.

According to this year''s TIP Report on Kuwait, it indicated that the government "demonstrated some progress in punishing offences in trafficking this year." It noted that while the government did not punish any offenders under the specific charge of "human trafficking," it charged 12 individuals with domestic labor abuse and registered 1,762 cases against persons charged with falsifying labor petitions.

The report also noted that in September 2007, the government opened a temporary shelter for female victims of forced labor. The shelter has a maximum capacity of 40 and is intended to provide medical, psychological and legal services.

During its first full year of operation, 279 domestic workers, the group most vulnerable to trafficking and abuse, entered and departed the shelter.

There is, to date, no shelter available for male migrant workers. In 2007, the government proposed opening a larger shelter that would be able to accommodate up to 700 men and women. An existing building was finally selected in 2008 to serve as the shelter and 2.5 million U.S. dollars was allocated toward its refurbishment. The building has however not been opened yet.

The report also said that throughout September 2008, the Kuwaiti Ministry of Awqaf and Islamic Affairs organized a series of lectures in mosques throughout the country where imams discussed the rights of domestic workers according to Islam. (for link, click

Al-Watan Daily: "Use Bedouns in schools instead of foreign teachers"


I do not know anything about this MP, but the most important point of the article is the following paragraph:

"He stated that he believes that the Bedoun issue is a humanitarian issue, not a political one. It is worth noting that the Bedoun issue tarnishes Kuwait''s image in front of the international community, since Kuwait is the only country in the world that suffers from stateless Arabs long within its borders."

For the full article, click here

This statement enforces the idea that granted Bedoun's nationality is not a matter for voters or legislators to decide, rather this is a human rights issue, in which case, even in a democracy, the majority has no right to deny this right to the minority.

I myself feel a bit of a fool to stick my neck out on an issue that I was not brought up knowing about and that I have very little knowledge of (albeit to my credit the fact that I do try to research the issue but have a hard time finding information) on either side of the fence.

From casually speaking to some people on an anecdotal level, the argument against granting citizenship is that when it was convenient for them, they were not interested in having Kuwaiti citizenship and failed to present themselves or apply for it. However, when it suited their interests, particularly once Kuwait was oil-rich, they through away their passports and now wish to be Kuwaiti to claim benefits. Of course there are also all the slanderous and discrimanatory stereotypes that legitimize this belief system: they are lazy, uneducated and breed in too large of numbers to grant all of them access to Kuwait's cradle-to-grave social security system.

HOWEVER, many of these people are born into a situation they had no part of as their classification is a consequence of actions by generations before them. You cannot hold eternal revenge for people not claiming citizenship in the past.

Secondly, many KUWAITIS themselves would not even be in this country, or would have changed their citizenship were it not for oil. Many foreigners would not reside here were it not for oil. Many people who reside here today and contribute to the economy would not be here if everyone "was still living in tents" as someone frankly put it to me the other day. So this is a mute point.

Thirdly, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights affirms that everyone has a right to a nationality and that no one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his nationality nor denied the right to change his nationality. This is in Article 15. You can't keep people down without any option to let them work for something better and then complain that they don't deserve better because they are so low. The bedoun question is a blatant Catch 22. Actually I would be interested in anyone who can tell me more or who has something to say. I do not even pretend to hide that on a whole I am ignorant on this issue. But I am a product of a Geneva Masters degree in International Studies and this does reflect my point of view on upholding the Declaration of Human Rights.

Thank You Dr. Ali for Answering Nabeel


Two days ago, an opinion piece by Nabeel Al-Awadi ran in the Al-Watan Daily entitled "The Government's Questionable Intentions". The article criticizes the liberal MP Doshti for suddenly focusing on social issues when she had run on a platform of prioritization for economic reform. Fine. However, in the third paragraph the author puts his foot in his mouth when it becomes clear that economic reform is not any of his top priorities either.

Rather, it is a disguised cry of fear that a liberal might dare get access to the National Assembly's Negative Phenomena Committee. This, according to this simple-minded critical thinker, would in effect open up a catastrophic wormhole from whence would emerge a topsy turvy society where "the existence of swimming pools for young men and women in public places", "the spread of homosexuality and lesbianism among young men and women" and "the existence of satanic groups" are not considered negative phenomena and condoned....probably even encouraged by these liberal MPs who have their moral compass a dizzy! In short, liberals are not qualified, do not have that certain panache, at knowing right from wrong, moral from immoral, whats good for society and whats not.

More than anything, it is patronizingly reductionist of liberal's social agenda assuming that the main issues revolve around sexuality, segregation and unraveling religious fiber. In my mind, when I think of "negative phenomena" that I REALLY see on a daily basis I begin to look at the number of driving accidents caused by reckless youth, lack of active engagement on recycling, civic duty and volunteering, etc.

Perhaps the biggest chestnut of an insight can be seen in the author's strange stream-of-consciousness listing of potential threats that liberals would not perceive (swimming pools, homosexuality, satanists) which ultimately reveal more about the writer's own obsessions than those of anyone else.

Well I was considering posting a response to this opinion piece two days ago, but like many things irrational, just let it slide. However, today I read an opinion piece by Dr. Ali Ahmed Al-Tarrah entitled "Addressing the Morals and Ethics of Society" that effectively slaps Nabeel's article across the face with a white satin glove. In his last paragraph he affirms:

"I hope that we in Kuwait will put an end to the issue of limiting freedoms. I hope that the Parliament''s Negative Phenomena Committee will spread the spirit of tolerance among people and at the same time fight against some dangerous phenomena such as reckless driving and absence of values and ethics. We must activate the role of civil society institutions to address the many new challenges, rather than escalate prohibition and intimidation."

Books: "Jungle Capitalists: A Story of Globalisation, Greed and Revolution" by Peter Chapman


It seems this book gives an in-depth account of United Fruit Company's interventionalist history in Central America's banana republics from the 19th to the 20th centuries. Given that I mentioned the Banana Trade Wars between the EU and the US recently in my blog, I thought I would mention the book on my blog. I have not read it yet.

In the university, my professor did once give me a copy of the book The Sovereign State of ITT, an older look (published in the 1970s) at the growing influence of multinationals and weakening sovereignty of traditional states. The book examined ITT's ventures in Chile, including its hand in the assassination of Allende.

In related multinational, foreign intervention news, Shell finally settled its case in "reconciliation" of complicity in the deaths of several Nigerian union leaders and campaigners by Shell-backed military rulers in the mid-1990s. In high school, my friends formed our school's first Amnesty International Chapter largely due to our infuriation over this event. It was one of our main causes.

Al-Watan Daily: Former president Estrada criticizes 'appalling' labor conditions: Philippines likely to ban female workers to Kuwait"


A system that is going to implode...once labor-exporting countries begin to demand better rights for their citizens and put a halt on migration, once rich countries put embargos and sanctions.

" In what appears to be a message of protest, the Philippines has warned that it''s seriously considering imposing a ban on Filipinas from working in Kuwait. Former Philippines President Joseph Estrada has sharply criticized the working conditions of his compatriots in Kuwait, saying that Filipino employees live in appalling conditions, and that his country is mulling over the possibility of imposing a ban on sending female recruits to Kuwait.

During a meeting with Filipino workers in Fahaheel on Saturday, he disclosed that some Filipinas have been victims of rape and subsequently got pregnant, and that many of them have been exposed to beatings.

"This is indeed appalling and a violation of human rights," the former president was quoted as saying, and noted that such a situation is unacceptable to both Kuwait and the Philippines.

He added that there were at least 170 Filipinos waiting to be deported from Kuwait and who were currently being sheltered at the Philippine Embassy...." (for full link, click

Movie Reviews: Wonderful World and The Lost City


Yesterday the Shashati Show at Cinemagic transpired. To give merit and lauds to the adaptability and endurance of the human condition, I managed to brave +40 Celsius heat for almost three hours, without breaking into a sweat. Among other noteworthy great feats and accomplishments of man, four different films from the region were presented. Although, I was deeply disappointed that the original host of the event, Showtime's upcoming standup comedian and the most famous Korean-Arab Wonho Chung was not in attendance, I was still pleasantly surprised by the experience. I will write about the two Kuwaiti films that were aired, one of which was my favorite of the night and the other, the least.

1. Wonderful World

Surely the most dazzling gem and well-marketed film of the set, "Wonderful World" by Tamir Naber brings to Kuwait a genre that I had thought previously unknown to these shores: The Musical. The invitation description of the movie is as follows:

This is the musical journey of star-crossed lovers Zaid (Nima Algooneh) & Zaina (Sama Falah) in their quest for marital bliss. Lost in a world where men and women speak different languages, they pay a visit to marriage counselor extraordinaire Dr. Brendt (Tamer Gargour), but little do they know, he has problems of his own!

Although I do not boast to know that much about the select amount of bonafied Kuwaiti films, Wonderful World surely adds a fresh, new element to this set. From the moment the ensemble of singer/actors/dancers breeze through their introductory musical item number in crayola, the audience knows its in for a sweet nectar of an experience. Even though the movie's main subject deals with marital conflict and personal crisis, the movie never forsakes allowing these actors to exhume their upmost cuteness throughout the entire duration.

Art does not incubate in a void, rather it is the product of the elements surrounding those who create it. Thus, many films in the region might be prone to reacting against a society that too often inhibits freedom of expression. In countries that aim to suppress, movie makers might aim to shock. In a political climate of segregation, religious extremism, and in some cases, conflict, directors and writers might focus on exploring these topics that shape their daily lives.

However, in this pure action-reaction paradigm, art often too easily becomes the mere foil of the oppressor, without its own backbone and often as buffoonish and as caricatured as the forces against which it fights. Therein lies my disappointment with the Kuwaiti movie, Banana, which I felt held little value other than to perforate norms of premarital sex and sexual frustration in Muslim societies with precisely this: shock, nonsensical-ness and interspliced images under the escape-chute of "surrealism".

And this is where Wonderful World steps, better said, pirouettes in. In its examination of a newlywed couple's first marital crisis, the movie does not attempt to tackle difficult subject matters of topics often deliberately ignored in the greater public eye, such as women's rights, domestic abuse, or empty marriages. Rather, it tells a universal, carefree bubblegum tale of two lovers (who also seem to be each other's best friend as well) too in love with their own love story to not make things work out. In this way, the movie is infused with its own youthful soul, as it has been created with its own image in mind, not a reactionary counterpoint to society.

The soundtrack is varied, has applicable lyrics and is executed well by the actors, who each deliver a their lines with an inviting singing tone. The two main actors are so down to earth and natural in both their character portrayal and delivery that you feel as if you already know the characters in your own life.

One of the greatest factors working in the movies favor is the wonderful love-hate chemistry between the two main actors. Zaid, a lovable Gen-Y husbum is played by linen-sporting, suspender strapping, fedora tilting eye-candy Nima Algooneh, while his outspoken, girl-in-charge wife, Zaina, is played by the honeydew Sama Falah. Their zingy one-line cut-downs and playful critisms of each other perfectly encapsulate the travails of newlyweds. They fight all the time over every new obstacle presented in their adjustment to married life, but at the same time, their fresh love makes it so that they almost seem to enjoy the banter of argument itself. The quick ignition disagreements lead to quick and tango-passion making up sessions, that if anything, seem to keep the couple entertained with each other-and the audience as well in the process. The role of the therapist was hilariously executed by Tamer Gargour with perfect Dr. Freud comical diction. However, what was missing was a greater interaction between the three of them. Dialogues were reserved for Zaina and Zaid, and monologues relegated to the therapist. Can there not be a three-way conversation?

In sum, I think its pretty obvious that this was my favorite movie of the evening. The character development was excellent, the wardrobe and set fresh, chic and contemporary, the actors executed their lines wonderfully, and the greatest credit can be given to the writer for the witty, tongue-in-cheek dialogue that had me laughing the whole time.

I would love to find a copy of this movie to post online.

2. The Lost City

Given my obsession with Kuwait's urbanization without a trace of history, the title "Lost City" mislead me into thinking the movie's focus would be as such. The film begins with the main character, a spiky-haired, mallrat suspect man in his twenties on his way to what seems to be a lazy-Friday middafternoon cheeto and redbull Baqala run. In front of the shop, he slips on some discarded batteries and knocks himself unconscious, only to find himself....low and behold! the middle of a souk in an pre-modern medina.

Although he like totally is so sure he randomly landed on some wack movie set, the picture does not seem to cut like it should after a take, and he soon realizes he seems to have transported back in time, or at least a long time ago, in a city far, far away. After being mistakingly thrown into the local jail, where he befriends a strangely cloaked man with a strangely worded mission, our digital-age protagonist seems to bypass the "oh shit, where am I?" factor to quickly take up his new friend's noble cause. And what might this cause be? Why restitution of the dethroned royal family over rule of the kingdom after having been maneuvored out of power by an evil, macchiavellian minister. In short, the movie seemed to me to have several different robbed elements: the set design and soundtrack of a sappy Lebanese historical telenovela, the entire plot, bit by bit of the Lion King, and the two-dimensional honor code of some of the later Lord of the Rings installments.

Most of all, the main actor's physical comedy wore my patience thin. A himbo through and through. his brain-dead theatrics pervaded through the entire film, which-while funny at first-only ridiculed and belittled the already pretentious moral airs of the royal family when the two parties were juxtaposed later in the film. For example, at the end of the movie, in a great WTF? moment, the newly instated King's first action is to appoint the main character to be one of his new ministers. The whole idea is implausible, and perhaps I am missing the point, as the entire world after all is a fabricated dream of the main character's concussion-induced delusion, but at the same time, it frustrated me that the main character did not seem to mature or learn from the experience in any way.

Rather than the story of a young man who develops an understanding of "doing whats right" for the good of a nation, a tale of the unyielding perseverance and sacrifice of good leaders over the morally corrupt and self-interested, or a message of "it takes a village", the movie plot comes off more as a Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure. Upon awakening from knocking himself out in his slip-up, he wakes up and realizes everything was a dream. Probably lacking the sufficient brain cells for adequate long-term memory, he walks off to the cue of the credits, leaving us unsure if the main character's dream lessons will be carried over in his daily behavior and actions. To me, it did not seem like our protagonist "got the memo", and even if he did, the whole plot of the gallant prince regaining grassroots following in his kidnapped kingdom to retake the land seemed extremely preachy to me. In fact, it seemed like a public service mouthpiece for the royal families in any of these Gulf monarchies.

In sum, The Lost City seems to me to be a lost opportunity to discuss a lot of other, more pertinent things: the lack of civic duty among youth today, the loss of traditional culture in the contemporary cityscape, even the Parliament-Royal family political divide. Instead we are given a loopy, ridiculous main anti-hero-whose goofy theatrics only make you more annoyed with him, and even with his entire generation of gel-haired, acid-washed jeans sporting, irredeemably dumb boys, by the end of the film.

News of the Weird: "Gaddafi Welcomed in Italy", Reuters


24 June 2009: Second Pecha Kucha Night in Kuwait


Wednesday, June 24, 2009
7:30pm - 9:30pm
Al-Qabliya School
Ali AlSalem Street

PechaKucha: Kuwait
Cordially invites you to a performance
PechaKucha Night #2
20 images x 20 seconds
to be given by:

Shurooq Amin
Nada Al Shammeri
Ahmed Al Rifae
Raffi Armoudjian
Danah Al Rababa
Samer Mohammed
Bassem Mansour
Nofal Abdelali

Date: Wednesday June 24 2009
Time: 7:30 pm
Place: Al-Qabliya School - Kuwait City
Contact number: +965 99480664

Dr.Asseel Al Ragam
KASA (Kuwait Architectural Student Association)
Kynn (from Design Squared)

Moderated by: Haya Al-Munaifi

Sponsored by:
NCCAL (National Council of Cultural Arts and Literature)
Arnest Group

To see last event's videos, see:

Shashati Show


Movie reviews coming very soon...

Wall Streeet Journal: "Upon Sober Reflection, Bahrain Reconsiders the Wages of Sin Island Reliant Upon Debauched Visits From Thirsty Saudis..."


After having been to Bahrain two times, I completely empathize with the dilemma Bahrainis feel about the problems of alcohol and sex commerce caused by Saudi's tourism refugees. Why must Saudi Arabia's prohibitive domestic policy have so many negative externalities for the rest of us who would like to simply have a glass of wine in a non-sleazy bar?

MANAMA, Bahrain -- Every weekend, bumper-to-bumper traffic blocks the causeway into this small island nation as visitors from nearby Saudi Arabia flock to delights unavailable at home: movie theaters, bars and, for some, commercial sex.

With few other attractions, Bahrain's booming tourism industry thrives on the island's reputation as a freewheeling oasis just a short drive from major Saudi cities. Bahrain has little oil of its own; tourism, mostly by the four million Saudis who cross the causeway each year, accounts for a tenth of its economy.

All of this is endangered, as Bahraini legislators press to scrap the country's drinking laws -- currently the most liberal in the Persian Gulf -- and to impose near-total prohibition.

"I'm sorry to say, but Bahrain has become the brothel of the Gulf, and our people are very upset about it," says parliamentarian Adel Maawdah, one of the promoters of the new legislation. "It's not only the drinking that we oppose, but also what it drags with it: prostitution, corruption, drugs and people-trafficking...." (for full article, click here)

AL-Jazeera English: "Chiquita: Between life and law; People & Power"


I have been anti-Chiquita for a long time, especially after having lived in Central America.  Chiquita has a long, sordid history of short-changing small banana republics and is currently a major player in the displacement of small farmers in many banana-exporting countries, which has led to banana trade wars between the United States and the European Union in ongoing WTO disputes.  I'll be happy to share a paper I wrote in graduate school on the topic for a class I took on game theory upon request.  Al-Jazeera's in-depth reports continue to surprise me in their scope.  

Al-Watan Daily: "Despite new regulations, laborers still working in high heat"


Dear Nancy, 

Please continue to work on investigative journalism on worker rights.  Too often, the most critical articles are allotted for the opinion section of the newspaper.  Investigative journalism is crucial for change, similiar to the muckrakers movement at the turn of the 19th-20th centuries.  The companies who violate regulations need to be MADE PUBLIC.

"Kuwait has recently issued a number of regulations that would partially protect the rights of almost two million expats workers in the country, especially workers who engage in jobs situated in the harsh atmosphere of Kuwait''s desert climate.

However, a number of workers have expressed their dismay to Al Watan Daily, saying that the State regulations do not deter their employers from incurring violations.

Lokman, a Bangladeshi laborer, told Al Watan Daily, "We work in the heat for long hours and we don''t even take a break. We work from seven a.m. to four p.m. in the heat, and when we complain they deduct from our salaries. Some of my friends have received sun burns from the heat and were taken to the hospital, and still nothing changes. The situation has not changed."
Ashraf, an engineer, told Al Watan Daily, "According to the laws in Kuwait, if the temperature reaches above 45 degrees Celsius workers have the right to not work outdoors, but in reality, if the temperature reaches more than 50 degrees Celsius, workers are still forced to work and many of them receive sun burns from the heat. The law also says that working hours should be from four a.m. until noon., but what actually happens is that the workers work for more than 10 hours a day, from six a.m. until four p.m., and sometimes they don''t even have a break in the middle to rest."

He added, "There are unfair people in Kuwait who are not sticking to the rules and regulations for labor, and they treat them (the workers) like animals."

Abdel Moheen, an Egyptian laborer, echoed the voices heard from a number of laborers facing these hardships.
"I work from early morning until late afternoon, and I am only paid 70 (Kuwaiti) dinars. This is not enough ـ I have to pay rent and pay for my food. They make us work for long hours in the heat and they don''t give us a break; we are suffering a lot and they are not providing us with helmets or anything that protects us from the heat. We need to get our rights and be treated like human beings. We have to work in the shade, or if this continues, we will surely die."

A South Asian worker recounted an incident involving a former coـworker who was working in construction for a new building and, due to the immense heat, fainted and fell to his death.

"I was working with my friend when the temperature was almost 55 degrees Celsius, and I could see that he was dizzy from the heat. I called our supervisor and told him, but he didn''t care, and made my friend continue his work. After half an hour my friend fainted and fell from the fifth floor of the building we were working on and died. This was a big problem and we all stopped working in protest, but nothing was done to solve this and we were forced back to work."

"Labor companies in Kuwait must stick to the rules of the country and give the workers their rights, because the laborers are human beings and shouldn''t be treated like slaves. These companies must work within the allocated legal hours. The workers must be properly paid and they must be saved from the heat and given protection by wearing helmets and talking their breaks on time," said an unnamed worker employed by a prestigious construction company." (for link, click here)