Gadabout Kuwaitis Stir Hosts' Ire
CAIRO — ONE job of the Kuwaiti police force training in Egypt is to discipline youngsters from the tiny Gulf state who might get out of line. As they dance the night away in discos, spend money in casinos, or run after women in hotel lobbies, these young Kuwaitis risk being sent to Saudi Arabia where codes of behavior are much stricter than in Egypt.
``Ever since the crisis happened, they come with their big cars, especially the young people,'' says Dalia Farag, a student. ``They're very showy. You see them in the hotels, all dressed up.... They should be in Kuwait, not here, instead of having other people fighting for them.''
As damaging reports of these young men hit the Western news media, the Kuwaiti exile community in Cairo is trying to fend them off. Broadcast journalists are prohibited from filming in Cairo's discos and Kuwait's public relations personnel are vigorously publicizing their community's more productive activities.
Kuwait wants to discard images of a spoiled population, dripping with oil money and accustomed to servants. Instead, the Kuwaitis would rather promote their dedication to liberating and rebuilding their state.
``You will see people working and preparing themselves for Kuwait's liberation, preparing for the reconstruction of their land,'' says Amal al-Hamad, deputy director of the Kuwaiti Information Center. Reports of teenagers hanging out in discos and casinos represents ``a very small number of Kuwaitis,'' she says. ``It is very unfortunate this was generalized in the mass media.''
Kuwait has a sophisticated and extensive network for promoting its cause. Three weeks after Iraq's Aug. 2 invasion, the Kuwaiti Information Office opened on the 14th floor of the prestigious Cairo Center in a wealthy neighborhood of Cairo. The 35 volunteers and employees provide the media with information and ``answer all lies coming from the Iraqi regime,'' says Hamad.
An American public relations company also has representatives in town working with the Western media and counseling the Kuwaitis on how to deal with Western journalists.
``We teach then a sense of deadline awareness,'' says a representative.
There is also the Kuwaiti Association for People's Action, the Joint Women's Committee, the National Union of Kuwaiti Students, and the Egyptian Committee for Solidarity with the People of Kuwait - all of which promote the Kuwaiti cause in Egypt. Outside Egypt, there are more than 10 other cities with information centers, including London, Paris, and Washington.
There are about 30,000 Kuwaitis living in Egypt out of 450,000 outside Kuwait. Many of these exiles were vacationing in Cairo when their homeland was invaded, while others fled here after Iraq's occupation. This sprawling metropolis is a favorite summer getaway for Gulf Arabs because of the relative social freedom as compared to their own countries' closer adherence to Islamic codes of behavior. Not only are discos and casinos a draw, but prostitutes thrive on Gulf oil money.
Images of wealthy oil sheikhs enjoying the pleasures of life seem inappropriate while hundreds of thousands of troops sweat it out in the desert, trying to regain their homeland. To muffle criticism, Kuwait is promoting training programs in nursing, first aid, carpentry, electrical appliances, and knitting, to teach exiles skills they will need to rebuilt their country. Kuwaiti women, generally accustomed to an army of household help, are learning how to cook and sew - jobs formerly reserved for the 150,000 foreign maids in Kuwait.
``We want to rebuild Kuwait again to become as it was before, a nice clean, safe place to live in,'' says Col. Abdul Amir Qabazard, a member of the Kuwaiti Security Committee. Its objective will be to get rid of any remaining Iraqis and collect abandoned weapons.