BADER ZAINAL WRITES — On April 20, Farah Hamza Akbar was killed in broad daylight after turning down the marriage proposal of the perpetrator.
In another tragic killing, Fatima Al Ajmi was shot dead by her brother, who felt hate and anger because she had married someone outside of their tribe and had, he felt, embarrassed their family.
Women in Kuwait have long been oppressed and deprived of their rights in this male-dominated culture, and women in the country have long remained silent about gender-based violence. But that may be changing. In solidarity with Akbar’s family, a group of activists led by Al Faraj, Hayat, and Shamo held a virtual mourning.
In response to the increasing number of reported cases of such brutal murders, several campaigns and protests have arisen. One of these is the ‘Am I Next Protest,’ which demands equality and justice for women in Kuwait. Another example: A popular fashion blogger in the country started a social media campaign, “I will not be silent,” in which women express their concerns about harassment and abuse. This February, several women came forth to report being harassed, stalked, or assaulted. Arwa Al-Waqian, a well-known Kuwaiti activist, claimed that women in Kuwait have not slept for days due to the case of Farah Akbar. What’s more, Ascia al-Farraj posted a video in which she talked about being chased by car by a man, which she says is a normalized form of harassment in Kuwait. And the Women’s Alliance has been on the forefront, campaigning for the enforcement of penalties against perpetrators of such violence as well as laws proposing the placement of women police officials in all precincts.
To be fair, there has been some progress over the years. In 2005, women were granted additional civil and social rights such as formal employment rights and equal welfare benefits. Progress has been made in that women have gained the ability to run for public office and to vote.
But the debate on women’s rights and brutal killing remains ongoing. Many women hope that great improvements will be made. Will a true revolution occur, one that will result in change in in the political and social structures of the country? There is, maybe, a good chance, if these crimes persist and, more importantly, if the women of Kuwait continue to revolt.