Yesterday morning [September 19], Kuwaiti security forces raided the Bneid al-Gar suburb of the Kuwaiti capital and arrested 2,136 people. The detainees consisted of violators of Kuwait's residency laws and other wanted persons, mostly Asians. In a statement, the interior ministry said that the campaign is a part of a comprehensive plan to arrest those who violate the law in Kuwait, which has around 2.5 million foreign residents, in addition to 1.2 million Kuwaiti citizens.
Bneid al-Gar is known for its large Iranian community, and is also home to Kuwaiti Shiite residents. This area contains a number of mosques used by this religious group, which constitutes 15% of Kuwait’s citizens.
Opposition members of parliament and activists have repeatedly criticized the government for not ensuring that police forces maintain a street presence in this area. These critics are believed to be the reason behind the recent police campaign.
Shiite MP Abdulhameed Dashti spoke out against the raids in Bneid al-Gar, which he described as “the area of believers.” For many years, activists have said that the area has become “a haven for Iranian influence” and demanded that the authorities not “neglect Kuwait’s security.”
The Interior Ministry released a statement saying that these surprise raids were “part of a carefully planned security campaign launched by the ministry’s agencies, which sought to arrest those who had violated residency laws, as well as other violators. Security forces targeted the Bneid al-Gar district of the Kuwaiti capital, and arrested 2,136 people who will be charged in court. These are all people wanted by the judiciary. Some have violated residency and labor laws, while others are suspected of involvement in crimes related to theft, illegal drugs, alcohol and other crimes. All of them have been referred to the relevant authorities.”
However, some members of parliament were skeptical of the seriousness of yesterday’s campaign, noting that it has only focused on domestic workers who are working outside the house of those who sponsored their visas, as well as those whose visas have expired. MP Waleed al-Tabtabaie tweeted that the campaign in Bneid al-Gar is an act fabricated by the ministry, adding that “this is evidenced by a warning that was issued one day before, and by the fact that members of the special forces were prevented from using their phones.”
Official statistics published last year revealed that the Iranian community does not exceed 55,000 residents in Kuwait. However, opposition members said these figures do not include those who have entered the country with temporary visas, who number in the tens of thousands.
The opposition has traditionally accused the government of leniency when it comes to issues involving Iranians in Kuwait, as well as their connections with Kuwaiti Shiites. The opposition has also accused the government of trying to please Iran.