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Opinion: Combatting terrorism in Kuwait | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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A general view of Kuwait City in this November 10, 2012 file photo. (Reuters/Stephanie Mcgehee/Files)

Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah Bin Abdulaziz issued a royal decree which punishes citizens who fight abroad, belong to, or financially support extremist and terrorist groups whether inside or outside the Kingdom. Such offenses result in a prison sentence of no less than three and no more than 20 years. This was followed by a move from the Saudi Ideological Security Directorate (ISD).

In remarks to Reuters, ISD head Abdulrahman Al-Hadlaq confirmed that the Syrian conflict has led to a new, greater threat of Islamist radicalism in Saudi Arabia, adding that this requires an aggressive “war of ideology” on the Internet. Hadlaq said that his unit focuses on those who use the Internet to recruit Saudi jihadists to fight abroad. He said that “before the problems in Syria started, the role of Al Qaeda and the radicals were declining.”

The Saudi royal decree elicited a varied response across the world, but the most prominent reaction was felt in Kuwait. MP Nabil Al-Fadl called for similar legislation in Kuwait given that, according to the parliamentarian, the situation in Kuwait now is similar to that in Saudi Arabia before the issuance of the royal decree. Fadl claimed that there are those in Kuwait who are recruiting and sending Kuwaiti youth to fight in Syria, also citing the way that donations are collected with the authorities knowing little about how the money is ultimately distributed. He added that one Kuwaiti citizen has announced on social media that he intends to raise 60,000 US dollars to buy surface-to-air missiles for Syrian rebels.

Meanwhile, Speaker of the Kuwaiti National Assembly Marzouq Al-Ghanim has ruled out the possibility of parliament ratifying the Gulf Cooperation Council security pact during this year’s legislative round ending this June.

Fadl said he believes Syria has turned into a place rife with people obsessed with bloodshed and unconcerned about whether they are killing civilians or militants. He therefore put forward a draft law along the lines of the Saudi King’s decree, affirming that Kuwait and Saudi Arabia are facing similar threats, and therefore “our laws should resemble one another’s.”

The problem, according to Fadl, is that Kuwait is the only country that does not have counterterror laws worthy of the name. He said that counterterror court rulings are failing to develop correctly in Kuwait, pointing the finger of blame squarely at the presence of “Muslim Brotherhood” MPs.

Fadl also expressed concerns about veteran fighters returning to Kuwait from Syria. The number of Kuwaitis fighting in Syria is unknown. In a report published by the Kuwaiti Al-Seyassah newspaper last Friday, Kuwaiti security apparatuses warned of the presence of cells affiliated with the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and the Al-Nusra Front in Kuwait. Both are militant groups associated with Al-Qaeda.

In remarks to the Al-Shahed newspaper, Kuwaiti MP Saleh Ashour warned of an “internal catastrophe,” given the potential return of “at least 20,000 Arab and Gulf fighters from Syria to Kuwait.”

The Kuwaiti government is not involved in any activities associated with sending fighters and weapons to Syria. Rather, its policy is based on helping distressed civilians. Kuwait has held two Syria donor conferences, securing over 5 billion US dollars in pledges. The government has also suspended all preachers who call for jihad in Syria. However, authorities cannot do anything about someone on Twitter raising money to buy weapons for fighters in Syria. This simply is due to the lack of legislation criminalizing such practices in Kuwait.

Fadl said that he would like to see the Saudi royal decree being adopted as a general procedure across all GCC states: “We are seeking integration [in the GCC], and this includes the signing of security, economic and federal agreements.”

“I do not know why we want security in our country while we export terrorism to other countries. This is a shame!” he added.

When asked about reports of protests in Kuwait against the GCC security pact, Fadl issued a denial, saying that meetings had been held behind closed doors against the pact on the pretext that it is unconstitutional.

“There are several reasons for these negative attitudes. The Brotherhood sees in the pact a conspiracy aimed at restraining and defeating them. I personally think the pact will undermine the Brotherhood’s authority, which must come to an end,” he said.

Kuwait is the only GCC country that opposed the security pact because it said it had articles that contradict its constitution and the Kuwaiti government only approved the pact after amendments were introduced.

Fadl accused the Kuwaiti government of negligence in its promotion of the GCC security agreement, allowing some of the groups in Kuwait to falsely claim that the pact violates the constitution. The security pact gives precedence to national legislation and international agreements in each country. Therefore, there is no fear of any country being forced to violate its laws and international agreements.

Opponents of the agreement claim that it will lead to Saudi patrols entering Kuwaiti territory. However, the pact clearly stipulates that no Saudi patrols will cross borders.

The government’s negligence in promoting the pact was accompanied by the silence of the majority of Kuwaitis. In other words, like Egypt, Kuwait also has its own version of the Hizb El-Kanaba, the Couch Party [a term that first emerged in Egypt to refer to those who did not take part in the January 25 Revolution, akin to the ‘silent majority’].

According to Fadl, the pact will save Kuwait from what he calls the “disaster” of dual citizenship. He claimed that there are thousands of Gulf nationals who hold Kuwaiti citizenship but only come to Kuwait every four years to vote for their MP.

“The pact would help the Kuwaiti authorities learn about Kuwaiti nationals in Saudi Arabia and other GCC countries and thus help contain the dual citizenship issue,” he said.

“The National Assembly in Kuwait has a bad history regarding ratification of international agreements,” he said. In fact, some agreements have been reported to have been ratified 14 years after they were signed.

In addition to this, once an agreement is ratified by the National Assembly, any Kuwaiti citizen can appeal against it on the grounds that it is unconstitutional. The Constitutional Court in Kuwait has a long record of revoking royal decrees and national assembly resolutions.

The problem with Kuwait is that those who oppose the GCC security pact would rather make a scene than follow the legal channels of protest.