Kuwait citizenship row a risk for business, too

Violence in nearby Iraq prompted Kuwait to adopt an iron fist approach to national security. This summer, the government began targeting terrorist suspects and political dissenters, depriving some of their citizenship rights.

Hani Abdullah/Reuters/File
Stateless Arabs demanding citizenship protest in Kuwait's Tiama district May 1, 2012.

Earlier this summer, Kuwait joined Bahrain in warning that persons charged with serious political offenses, such as attempting to destabilize the country, or terror-related crimes would be deprived of their citizenship rights. Five Kuwaiti opposition figures had their passports withdrawn in June, and more may follow soon.

According to local media reports, Kuwait is now considering making three more of its nationals stateless. Hajjaj al Ajmi, Shafi al Ajmi, and Abdulrahman al Anizi were blacklisted by the US Treasury last week for alleged terror financing in Iraq and Syria. Monitor Global Outlook highlighted last month that violence in nearby Iraq has prompted Kuwait to adopt an iron fist approach to national security, one that targets terrorist suspects as well as political dissenters.

The increasing reliance on revoking citizenship rights as a form of punishment is a symptom of growing concern about political stability amid regional turmoil but also a risk for businesses employing Kuwaiti nationals.

Among those who saw their nationality revoked in June was Ahmad Jabr al Shemmari, owner of satellite television station al-Youm and the newspaper of the same name. Both news outlets were considered to have an Islamist and pro-opposition bend. The government said al-Youm had breached a gag-order earlier this summer to block reporting on a high-profile scandal linking members of the ruling family to an alleged coup plot. Mr. Shammari told Human Rights Watch this week that all of his employees, estimated at between 700 and 800 people, stand to lose their jobs.

Revoking nationality rights may become a preferred tactic to fight terrorism financing. Late last year, a few prominent Kuwaiti financiers of the Syrian opposition claimed on their Twitter accounts that the government prevented them from traveling abroad.... For the rest of the story, continue reading at our new business publication Monitor Global Outlook.

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