Kuwait’s youth shake up traditional diwaniya concept

Kuwait’s youth groups were largely formed out of a common need to address issues pertaining to their future such as unemployment and gender discrimination, as well as broader issues. (Supplied)
Short Url
Updated 17 October 2020

Kuwait’s youth shake up traditional diwaniya concept

  • Cross Cultural Diwaniya adopts a core part of Kuwaiti culture to promote open dialogue on social issues and reform
  • Founders Faisal Al-Fuhaid and Leanah Al-Awadhi say both Kuwaitis and expats are welcome at their gatherings

KUWAIT CITY: Kuwait is a small country in the Gulf with a high-income per capita rate, most of it made from oil exports, similar to the economic climate seen in the more affluent countries of the region.

Yet, what sets this country apart is its hybrid government, comprising a hereditary monarchy and a semi-democratic political system.

While democratic and constitutional forces are at work at the top level, the socio-political undercurrents that influence the state and especially Kuwait’s youth are also equally hard to miss.

Kuwait’s youth groups were largely formed out of a common need to address issues pertaining to their future such as unemployment and gender discrimination, as well as broader issues including corruption, judicial reform, and the fundamental need for their voices to be heard at the highest level.

The Cross Cultural Diwaniya (CCD) is one such popular initiative — the brainchild of Faisal Al-Fuhaid and Leanah Al-Awadhi — which started out hosting gatherings to encourage an open dialogue on various topics across different communities.




The Cross Cultural Diwaniya (CCD) — brainchild of Faisal Al-Fuhaid and Leanah Al-Awadhi — started out hosting gatherings to encourage an open dialogue on various topics across different communities. (Supplied)

“Back in 2013, there used to be a lack of public spaces where individuals could converse with others openly within a safe circle,” Al-Awadhi said.

“There were only traditional diwaniyas, which were mostly restricted to Kuwaiti men, thus not enabling their networking and knowledge-sharing advantages to the wider society.”

According to Al-Fuhaid, the aim was to start conversations “in and around topics of social and global significance and to be a networking platform.”

Initially, the reception was not particularly warm, as many Kuwaitis were not used to attending diwaniyas outside societal norms where individuals would be welcomed regardless of their socio-economic position, corporate hierarchy, gender, or age, Al-Fuhaid said.

Over the years, however, the group’s influence has gradually widened and the diwaniyas have become a popular platform among youth. Their main challenge now is choosing relevant topics and crossing language barriers, as the diwaniyas are open to all and attended by citizens and expats, Al-Awadhi added.

As part of the forum’s formula of exploring solutions to some of the country’s challenges, the team sometimes engages attendees to develop case studies where they work together in groups and look at issues from multiple angles.

Collaborations with groups such as the Kuwait Transparency Society, Equate Petrochemical, and Kuwait Commute mean some of the suggestions put forward at the forums lead to changes in the country’s urban infrastructure.

“Some of the solutions proposed by the attendees are then taken into account when policies are drafted or decisions made,” added Al-Fuhaid.




Faisal Al-Fuhaid, the co-founder of the Cross Cultural Diwaniya (CCD). (Supplied)

Earlier this year, as the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak took hold, the country was rocked by several high-profile corruption and human trafficking scandals. But with elections fast approaching, it remains to be seen whether initial measures will be followed up with stricter reforms.

“It is vital that all citizens make use of their voting powers to elect parliamentary members that have the country’s best interests in mind and confront officials who actively engage in corruption, no matter who they are. No one should be above the law,” Al-Fuhaid said.

In recent times, Kuwait has also faced criticism for its human rights record and perceived xenophobia toward the expatriate community. The CCD aims to highlight and address these challenges.

Al-Awadhi said: “Everyone is welcome, regardless of their nationality, gender, or religion. We have hosted multiple sessions discussing xenophobia and human rights and work tirelessly to make sure that the CCD is a space where all participants listen to and learn from each other. The only way to progress is to coexist.”

------------------

This report is being published by Arab News as a partner of the Middle East Exchange, which was launched by the Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Global Initiatives to reflect the vision of the UAE prime minister and ruler of Dubai to explore the possibility of changing the status of the Arab region.


Australian academic Kylie Moore-Gilbert moved to notorious Tehran jail

Updated 1 min 47 sec ago

Australian academic Kylie Moore-Gilbert moved to notorious Tehran jail

  • During a previous stint at Evin, Moore-Gilbert reported being held in restrictive conditions and needing psychiatric medications for “gravely damaged” mental health
  • Friends believe she is now being held in the same ward as before, a facility controlled by Iran’s hard-line Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps

SYDNEY: An Australian academic held in Iran for more than two years has been returned to Tehran’s notorious Evin prison, friends said Friday, prompting fresh concern about her wellbeing.
Kylie Moore-Gilbert — who is serving a 10-year sentence on charges of espionage — had disappeared inside Iran’s prison system a week ago, sparking frantic efforts to learn her whereabouts.
“I’m relieved that the Australian government has finally managed to locate Kylie six days after she went missing,” friend and fellow Middle East expert Dara Conduit told AFP. “But make no mistake: this is not a win for Kylie.”
Conditions at Evin are believed to be marginally better than Moore-Gilbert’s previous jail at Qarchak — a women’s facility that has been blacklisted under UN human rights sanctions and is notorious for the ill-treatment of political prisoners.
During a previous stint at Evin, Moore-Gilbert reported being held in restrictive conditions and needing psychiatric medications for “gravely damaged” mental health.
Friends believe she is now being held in the same ward as before, a facility controlled by Iran’s hard-line Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps.
Australia’s foreign ministry has said securing her release is an “absolute priority,” but was forced to admit this week that her whereabouts were unknown.
“We do not accept the charges upon which Dr. Moore-Gilbert was convicted, and want to see her returned to Australia as soon as possible,” the ministry said after ambassador Lyndall Sachs was able to visit her in Qarchak Prison on October 19.
Throughout Moore-Gilbert’s internment, friends and family have become increasingly critical of what they say is Australia’s ineffective diplomatic approach.
According to Conduit: “Not one iota of progress has been made in her case, despite the government’s assurances that Kylie’s case is under control.”
She called Moore-Gilbert’s transfer back to Evin “an utter indictment of the Australian government’s failure on Kylie’s case.”
“After 778 days, she is back at square one in the prison in which she was originally held.”
Moore-Gilbert was reportedly arrested at Tehran airport by the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps in September 2018 after attending a conference in Qoms.
She is just one of several Westerners being held in Iran on national security grounds.
Negotiations with Tehran are notoriously difficult, with governments and families forced to decide if quiet discussions are less likely to antagonize captors, often against a fraught geopolitical backdrop.
Iran’s complex political and judicial system — which sees hard-liners, reformists and myriad state institutions vying for influence — can make things more complex still.