The inhabitants of Kuwait have long taken pride in the fact that their country was more liberal than its neighbours and has welcomed writers expelled from other Arab countries. But with the rise of the conservative bloc in parliament, more and more books are banned. According to the New York Times, there were hundreds this year alone.
The censors are proceeding rigorously. A whole encyclopedia was banned because a photo shows the genitals of Michelangelo’s “David”. The Disney book “The Little Mermaid” was put on the index because the mermaid’s bikini tops are too tight.
Male fear of sexuality
Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s “Hundred Years of Loneliness” was banned because it contains a scene in which a woman sees her husband naked. But not only fear of sexuality and a lack of male self-esteem lead to censorship. Classics like George Orwell’s “1984”, which have a long history of censoring authoritarian regimes all over the world, are also forbidden.
Women in Kuwait demonstrated against the book ban
In recent weeks there have been more protests about the book bans, as the “New York Times” reports. For example, books were hung on a palm tree in a park, reminiscent of a Christmas tree. In addition, a handful of people took to the streets in demos against the book ban. An employee of the Ministry of Information said he did not understand the excitement. Only 4,300 books had been banned in the past five years. There were so many others.
The state of Kuwait (“Daulat Al-Kuwait”) lies in the northwest of the Persian Gulf and borders Saudi Arabia in the south, Iraq in the northwest and north. With an area of 17 818 km², the country is about twice as large as the island of Crete.
Kuwait consists mainly of dry steppe and desert and is almost flat except for the Zawr Mountains (up to 150 m), which run parallel to the coast. The wide sandstone plateau, which occupies most of the country, rises from east to west, the largest being Ash Shakayah (283 m). The western border to Iraq runs along a dry valley (Wadi al Batin), which carries water only occasionally.
Kuwait Bay, about 40 km inland in the middle of the Persian Gulf coastline, is the capital city at the southern tip, which bears the same name as the country (Al-Kuwayt). North of the bay there is a strip of alluvial land belonging to the Shatt el Arab, south of the bay there are the large oil fields to which the state owes its prosperity.
According to the constitution of 1962, Kuwait is a constitutional hereditary monarchy (emirate). The Emir (Sabah bin Ahmad al-Jabir as-Sabah, since January 2006) is both secular and spiritual head of the country. At the same time, he chairs the Council of Ministers and appoints the head of government (Jabir Mubarak al-Hamad as-Sabah, since December 2011). The executive power lies with the emir or the ministers appointed by him and the head of government. All important ministries are occupied by members of the as-Sabah family.
Legislative power lies with the National Assembly (Madschlis al-Umma) with 65 members. Of these, 50 are elected and 15 appointed. The term of office is four years. The Emir has both a right of proposal and a right of veto. Kuwaitis over 21 years of age are eligible to vote (except for members of the armed and security forces). Only since 2005 have female citizens also had the right to vote and to stand as a candidate. Instead of the (banned) political parties, Kuwait has party-like groups, which can be roughly divided into Islamists (of various kinds), liberals and representatives of tribes and conservatives.
The legal system is based on Islam and British models. Kuwait is divided into six governorates. There is a single municipal council for the entire national territory. There is also a neutral zone with Saudi Arabia.
Kuwait is one of the wealthiest states in the world. Kuwait’s economy is based on the sale of crude oil and oil products (Kuwait owns about one tenth of the world’s oil reserves). Oil export revenues account for 94% of total export revenues. Only 2.1% of the population is considered unemployed.
Due to the drought, less than 1% of the country’s land area can be used for agriculture. Dates, melons and animal feed are cultivated in the oases and coastal areas. Sheep, goats and cattle are kept to a limited extent, partly by nomadic Bedouins. The remaining food has to be imported, as well as building materials, vehicles and textiles. The most important suppliers are the USA, China and Germany.
Among the industrial companies, petrochemicals and chemicals dominate; they also produce the export products, which are sold to Japan, the USA, South Korea, India and China.
Kuwait has an industrial port (Ash Shiwaikh) and four oil ports (Mina al-Ahmadi, Mina Abd Allah, Ash Shuaybah, Mina Suud). Near the capital there is an international airport. Currency is the Kuwaiti dinar.