Trump's Muslim ban is old news in Kuwait

Trump's Muslim ban is old news in Kuwait
Sources have told The New Arab that in 2011, an unofficial ban was put in place affecting citizens of five Muslim countries; Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, Syria and Pakistan.
3 min read
07 February, 2017
Kuwait is viewed as one of the least friendly countries towards expatriates [AFP]
US President Donald Trump's Muslim ban is nothing new to the rulers of Kuwait.

Syrians, Iraqis, Iranians, Pakistanis and Afghans were not allowed to obtain visit, tourism or trade visas to Kuwait in 2011, in a move which pre-empted US restrictions on seven Muslim-majority countries.

Passport holders from the countries were not allowed to enter the Gulf state while the blanket ban was in place, and had been told not to apply to visas.

Kuwaiti sources originally told local media at the time that the restrictions were in place due to the "instability" in the five countries and that the ban would be lifted once the security situation improves.

Pakistan and Afghanistan continue to witness violence from extremist groups, while Syria and Iraq are embroiled in internal conflicts.
Read more: UAE backs Trump's Muslim ban

The ban, which was covered by a number of outlets including the BBC, appears to have been imposed unofficially. Local sources have told us that in 2011 and 2012, they attempted to bring in speakers from these countries for various events and were told that they could not. In certain instances, personal favours were granted by senior government officials allowing some visitors. 

Although mainly peaceful, tensions between Iran and the Gulf have ratcheted up over the past year, with the GCC powers accusing Tehran of attempting to destabilise the region.

The State of Kuwait rejected reports that it planned to stop issuing visas to certain countries, but made no mention of what was reported by a number of agencies in 2011.
Read more: Dubai security chief backs Trump's Muslim ban
Kuwait is concerned about the threat of extremist groups such as al-Qaeda and the Islamic State group, and both militant organisations have offshoots in Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan.

But the ban on citizens from fellow Muslim-majority nations failed to prevent the Gulf state from being targeted in a number of militant attacks over the past two years - including the bombing of a Shia mosque in 2015 which left 27 Kuwaitis dead. It is worth noting that Kuwaitis were the perpetrators of this attack. 

Kuwait responded by arresting dozens of suspected IS sympathisers and rolling out a mandatary DNA testing programme and database for the Gulf state's four million population.

Kuwait has issued a number of laws targeting foreigners in recent years, making it one of the most unfriendly Gulf states towards expatriates.

In 2015, Kuwait was named as the worst place in the world for expatriates in a 64-country InterNations survey. 

Meanwhile, Trump's Muslim ban has been met with widespread outrage since it was signed on Friday, although most Gulf states have largely remained quiet on the issue.

Dubai security chief Dhahi Khalfan outraged Syrians and other nationalities included in the ban when he backed Trump's decision, and UAE Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed al-Nahyan said the ban was "not Islamophobic".

This article has been updated to reflect the fact that the ban came into force, unofficially, in 2011 and was not a reaction to Donald Trump's recent executive order. Sources have told The New Arab that citizens from a number of countries mentioned above and in particular Syrians, have great difficulty in obtaining visas for Kuwait even if they have family members there and fulfill all visa requirements.