Category Archives: MISCELLANEOUS

Selective Amnesia

August 2nd – It has been 23 years since the brutal Iraqi invasion of Kuwait.

Within just a few hours, the sound of thundering blasts and gunfire shook the country, propelling it into a dark abyss. People were caught off guard at dawn: no sirens, no government warnings; local newspaper headlines the day before trumpeting Kuwait and Iraq’s ‘brotherly relations‘…

This was not a run of the mill invasion; it was a complete annexation of the country, an eradication of its identity. There were no Red Cross convoys traversing in and out of Kuwait distributing supplies and taking care of the injured. There were no reporters on the ground covering the killings, torture, and systematic looting of the country’s resources via satellite. No major charities were established to raise money for the Kuwaitis or Expatriates who were caught in the crossfire. No demonstrations or marches sprouted up supporting Kuwait’s liberation (unless they were organized by Kuwaitis themselves in cities such as London).

If you were out of Kuwait, what you owned, who you knew, how much you were worth, was irrelevant; you were a refugee, forever stuck in no man’s land, fingerprinted and scrutinized wherever you were.

Today, let us keep that in mind and remember the heroes – in and out of Kuwait – who helped unshackle the nation from the chains of occupation. We certainly won’t forget our nation’s feebleness, indecision & geopolitical naivete – fast-tracking Kuwait into that dark void to begin with.

The government may choose to forget; a stark reminder of its incompetence and impotence. But we won’t.

Kuwait, I Choose Not To Play

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Honestly, I don’t have much to add.

The political charade continues with another election (the sixth one in seven years).

I am boycotting the election; my decision is intuitive in nature, not political. I am rejecting a system which I suspect is rigged, one that is in the habit of ‘resetting’ the arena in order to safeguard the status quo (one in dire need of transparency & reform).

At this point in time, Parliament & its members are irrelevant. Six months down the road an MP will uncover a ‘sensitive’ corruption deal, the collective political fracas will hit the fan and Parliament will be suspended (again).

Without a broad, tangible political overhaul of the system (driven by both public & private pressure) for full accountability of the Cabinet and Legislative branches, the situation will continue to deteriorate, impeding development, stability and quality of life.

Ultimately, I refuse to partake in a game with opponents who change the rules as they go along. Today, I choose not to play.

‘Hilaliya’ Hits 7-Year Mark, Updates DNA

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It’s hard to believe that I started this Blog seven years ago (2006) during the wave of what we now refer to as the ‘Golden Blogosphere’ period in Kuwait. It was a thrilling period, our major form of collective-communicative-venting tool at the time, miles before Facebook & especially, Twitter, took over.

As the years progressed our community grew, bonds were strengthened, but as Bob Dylan sang, “the times they were are a-changin,”: some became casual bloggers, others retired, and a few such as ‘Hilaliya’ modified their communicative anatomy (with exception of a few random posts); in our case, we opened it up to ‘Guest Bloggers,’ basically giving the blog back to the community that helped nurture us.

In the spirit of our ‘golden heyday’ (& 7th Anniversary) I’ve updated the Blog, moving it from the Movable Type system (which I found cumbersome & inflexible) to WordPress, adding all the modern Social Media bells and whistles (‘Like’ Buttons, ‘Share’ & so forth). The Blog is also smartphone-friendly now.

Thanks for your support.

In the meantime, I’ll be lurking in the shadows.

Kuwait Election Deja Vu – Don’t Take The Tents Down.

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2006. 2008. 2009. Here we go again. Let’s hope I don’t end up here again in a year or six months because of political squabbling. Frankly, I don’t think the next Parliament will last long, but at least I did my bit. Don’t take the campaign tents down, yet.

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Previous Election Day Posts:

2009 – http://www.hilaliya.com/2009/05/deja-vu-kuwait-election-day–.html

2008 – http://www.hilaliya.com/2008/05/casting-the-ballot-in-kuwait.html

2006 – http://www.hilaliya.com/2006/06/its-over-i-voted-1.html

Vote Responsibly

This is the third time I am going to have to vote in less than five years.

I am not going to bore you with the political trials and tribulations on the ground. We’ve all been witness to that, are fatigued by it.

At this point in time, I don’t think my vote is going to make a dramatic difference, I think our issues are far larger and graver in magnitude than the issue of who makes it to Parliament and who doesn’t.

However, I will still stress the following: Vote Responsibly – vote for honest individuals who put the country ahead of themselves.

That’s all one can hope for.

Here’s a great Link for information on Candidates and their respective positions on a myriad of issues: www.voteresponsible.org

’90 Occupation – Student, Female Volunteers: Kuwaiti Spirit Of Yesteryear

The ’90 Occupation – Student, Female Volunteers: The Kuwaiti Spirit Of Yesteryear

Reprinted From The Correspondent (The American Business Council Magazine) Summer 2011

In the early morning of August 3rd, 1990, the day after Kuwait was invaded by Iraq, Kuwaitis from areas around Washington, DC converged in front of the White House to hold a demonstration asking President George Bush Senior for his help for their country. Most Kuwaitis, their friends and families who marched that day, held faces which revealed much; bloodshot eyes and blank, lifeless stares. Their world had just been changed overnight. Many people were crying softly. It was solemnly quiet and the air was full of grief. “Have you heard from….?” “How do I find out about…?” “I think my mother was going to travel…” “What do we do now?”

It was the beginning of a long desperate seven months of agony, rumors, and the unknown. No one knew how their families and friends were faring inside Kuwait; none knew their future. None of the students that day knew what would happen next. Phone lines to Kuwait were down. It was too soon to know what the legitimate government of Kuwait would do.

True to the nature of Kuwaitis who use humor at even the most difficult of moments (often to fight off discomfort); Jasim K marched along side of his friends asking if they thought they could get jobs in the 7-11. They didn’t know if they would receive salaries or how they would live.

Some of my friends, like former MP Basil Al-Rashed, blindly boarded planes went to join Kuwaiti forces in Saudi Arabia during the first few weeks following the invasion. I heard later that MP Al-Rashed served with the Kuwaitis on the Saudi border. I am incredibly proud of him (as are others) for taking the initiative to pioneer it alone during those early days of uncertainty.

These were not the days of the internet. E-mail didn’t become popular until after the war was long over. The phone lines to the Kuwaiti embassy in Washington DC were jammed and information was hard to come by. However, almost immediately offices were set up to form assistance teams. Information trickled out of Kuwait, sometimes from people escaping; sometimes from ham radio operators. Lists were compiled of people, their whereabouts and their circumstances (including, heartbreakingly, names of those who had been tortured or taken as hostages). Grass roots newspapers like, “Ku-waiting for News” (which was written and distributed by an American woman married to a Kuwaiti) provided information in English to friends/relatives of Kuwaitis in the States. These were the days of no e-mail; distribution was by fax or “snail mail” system. People made copies and copies of copies and the information proved invaluable to those, like me, who were waiting to hear what was happening.

Kuwait Development Should Focus On Quality, Ease Of Life For Citizens

Development Should Focus On Quality, Ease Of Life For Citizens
by Amer Al-Hilal
Reprinted from ‘Arab Times’ (Jan. 6th 2011)

KUWAIT needs a development plan for citizens, one that takes into consideration the quality and ease of life for citizens – one that ties in overall human resources to skills, culture and education, augmented by the latest technologies and processes. We certainly don’t need a KD37 billion development plan shrouded in secrecy, with details constantly modified, convoluted by political trials and tribulations and government brokered ‘deals’ to augment political power, because let me tell you, if the development plan consists mainly of the Jahra Highway, Bubyan Port Phase 2, several new housing areas built in the traditional manner, the Arab-built Jaber Hospital and the Oil sector (i.e. The Fourth Refinery) then citizens are being deluded.

The above projects for example should not be under any ‘development plan’ – those types of projects, hospitals for example, are a given and should be planned and implemented for the growing population anyway. As it stands now, it’s a development plan by schmucks for schmucks.

I am not even going to bring up Silk City because I think it’s a dream wrapped up in a mirage that will take over a quarter of a century at the very least to analyze, plan, and execute. Judging by past Kuwaiti methodology it will not be built to international
specifications, and even if it is, it will undergo bureaucratic hurdles and be outdated by the time it’s built, not to mention ill maintained. This isn’t ‘Abu Dhabi 2030 Vision’ we’re talking about here, folks, so don’t get excited.

But I digress. Citizens urgently need the realities on the ground to change. So far they are not seeing anything materialize; on the contrary, services and infrastructure are regressing in all ways, whether it’s traffic, food safety, bureaucracy, state of the environment, ease of business, and so forth.

Just driving through an infested, traffic-ridden Ring Road – planned and built for a city a quarter of our population – is an indication that the state is still mired in studies, plans and empty rhetoric concerning metro plans, highways, bridges, flyovers, and road extensions, plans that should supposedly make our life easier. But probably won’t. Every year we take to the streets and the situation is grimmer.

Allow me to indulge in a few civic fantasies: Citizens want to travel through decent, well constructed roads and stroll on quality pavements, use clean transportation modes and breath fresh, clean air – it is high time development plans included strict environmental and litter laws (with soaring fines and imprisonment for lawbreakers) and also embraced alternative energies such as solar power, wind turbines, recycling plants and Waste management facilities (Kuwait currently invests less on waste management than its Gulf counterparts).

Obesity and diabetes are serious health issues in Kuwait, and are among the highest rates in the world. The state should invest in ‘green’ pathways, parks, community centers or walk areas for citizens to exercise and socialize (in the long run it will save millions in health care costs).

Additionally, what is the first image that greets a visitor upon entering Kuwait? The airport should represent modernity, efficiency, ease and comfort of travel, a pristine glimpse symbolizing a city of the new millennium; in actuality, however, Kuwait Airport is an unpleasant experience: crowded, smoky, dimly-lit, appalling parking and lackluster facilities, a truly Third World cesspool compared to other Gulf airports – citizens deserve much better. There are plans to build a new Terminal and new airports but those will take years at best due to the regular Kuwaiti methodology of management.

The state does not seem the least bit concerned in the aesthetic component of Kuwait; appalling zoning everywhere, vacant plots of land scattered around, undeveloped, neighborhoods encircled by desert land, unpaved and devoid of vegetation, bus stops so rundown they look like they were caught in a Fallujah firefight, roads with potholes and speed bumps that can gravely damage your car, diminutive, plastic garbage containers that encourage you to litter – the list is endless.

The city needs to be beautified, by competent landscaping, in a Kuwait lined with millions of trees and flora, a ‘green’ alternative: pumping oxygen into the atmosphere to dispel the Co2 and pollutants emanating from Kuwait’s ancient, ill-managed power stations and factories (which also need to be torn down and rebuilt – some date to the 1950s).

Citizens demand 21st century tools, a polished, competent, up to date infrastructure that caters to their needs, high-speed broadband internet (whose speed is not limited by feeble MoC phone lines), they require an efficient monitoring system of goods and services, including food testing labs, electronic government so citizens can finalize paperwork online, whether car registrations, license renewals and the like – as other Gulf states do (Currently, if you want to survive Kuwait’s Kafkaesque bureaucracy you need an army of ‘mandoobs’).

Unsurprisingly, many new areas such as Mubarak Al Kabeer, for example, lack basic telephone services, its citizens resorting to mobile phone lines and mobile data plans for Internet. Ask those citizens about development and they’ll respond with four letter words of encouragement at the government – a government that constantly claims to ‘safeguard the dignity of its citizens.’

What is the status concerning fiber optics plan by the Ministry of Communications encompassing all of Kuwait? The fact that copper lines are still being installed in some areas instead of fiber optics is indicative the MoC failed to execute its fiber optics infrastructure plans on time. Additionally, Bahrain, Oman and UAE are getting their own new flag cable – why didn’t Kuwait? I wonder what our friends at the Ministry of Communications have to say about this – probably an instant replay, clueless message about “MoC’s desire to live up to sublime vision of HH The Amir for Kuwait to be a financial hub.”

Citizens and businesses demand a more competent Customs Department, one armed with the latest technologies, with workers who toil in conscience – as opposed to dozens of ‘professionals’ drinking tea with one person doing his job -while others demand more bureaucratic paperwork from half a dozen ministries to clear customs. Entrepreneurs, companies and citizens in general know what used to take days to clear can sometimes take up to a week or more now (if you throw in a weekend) and people end up paying the late fees because of their inefficiency.

Now as much as I desire some of the above wish-list upgrades to occur, the cynical side is aware no matter what plans are weaved, whether it’s a new airport, terminal, metro, building a resort island in Failaka, it’s the same old song: bring in an international consultant, have them devise a blueprint and strategy, forward it to an inefficient ministry – with the bulk of employees, at best, armed with high school degrees and with technical and administrative competencies of a soiled shag carpet – have them modify and ‘supervise’ the plan, kill the plan, bring in a local contractor – whose tentacles extend into the Central Tenders Committee, therefore getting the winning bid – who eventually cuts corners with cheap materials, modifications and makes the bulk of their profits from tender ‘variations’ and presto, it’s Kuwait development served at its best!

We can only judge development by what we see and feel; by the way our lives are enhanced. For example, if we renew our registrations online next year, form a business in record time, attain swifter broadband, or drive on less congested roads, we’ll know we’re on the right track.

I am not holding my breath, however.