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Kuwait Citizens Cite ‘Wasta’ (Undue Influence) as Problem for Crime Prevention

From todays Arab Times Kuwait:


‘Wasta’ Major Setback In Battle Against Crime; Some Police Not Keen To Tackle Issues

In this week’s online poll, the Arab Times probed the factors that are blunting the efforts to fight crime in Kuwait. A majority of the voters felt that Wasta is a major setback to the fight against crime. About 56% of the voters felt this way.

Speaking to the Arab Times, respondents said criminals use Wasta to escape the long arm of the law. “I know a citizen who routinely cuts red lights. He pats his back and says that he has Wasta to dodge penalties. This is a traffic offence, and may not be considered a crime. However, if this is possible in the case of traffic offences, it should be possible in major crimes too.” Another respondent shared a personal experience when one of his neighbors had a conflict with the landlord.

The neighbor decided to go to the court, and he was asked to pay the rent there. However, the person in charge of collecting the rent in the court gave lame excuses and avoiding collecting the amount in time. The landlord used this as a pretext to procure an ejection notice from the court. “It looks like some authorities in the court were in cahoots with the landlord to deny justice to my neighbor.”

About 13% of the voters felt that law keepers themselves become law breakers, and that’s why it becomes hard to fight crimes. Respondents cited the example of the recent case that made headlines when cops raped a woman in her flat, entering her flat under the pretext of looking for residence violators. “This is an example of policemen stooping to the lowest level, becoming worse than criminals.” Others brought up a report that Arab Times had published some time back about the ‘Trolley Mafia” in the airport. “The workers in the airport literally extort money from the passengers forcing the trolley service on them for a charge of 500 fils.

They do not let us take the trolley.” Respondents said it’s highly improbable for this mafia to work in this fashion without the knowledge and blessings of the concerned authorities in the airport, especially after the report coming in the newspapers several times. One of the respondents said that he had an altercation with one of the workers in the airport over the trolley. “I used an expletive in the course of the heated exchange, and the worker complained to a policeman in duty.

The cop came over to me to inquire if I had used the bad word, but as he didn’t speak our language I told him that it was only an impolite word, and not a bad word. The officer went to the extent of calling another passenger, who spoke our language, to verify if what I was saying was true. To my good luck, the passenger concurred with me.

The officer let me go, but then I complained to him about the worker who was trying to extort money from me. The officer walked away as if he couldn’t care less.” The trolley mafia is continuing to operate without any hassles, and people suspect the tacit support of the authorities.

About 16% of the voters said that the police are not very keen on solving crimes, and that is encouraging criminals. Other reasons for the increase in crime in the society, according to the poll, included unemployed youth wanting to make quick money, corrupt politicians and crime getting accepted as a part of life. However, these only won very small percentage of votes. A very tiny fraction of voters felt that criminals are getting smarter.

By: Valiya S Sajjad Arab Times Staff

April 11, 2014 - Posted by | Community, Crime, Cultural, ExPat Life, Kuwait, Law and Order, Living Conditions, Local Lore


  1. Police stations in kuwait are exteremly under manned , to the point where it is dangerously weak and any group of people can easily overcome their staff .couple of weeks ago two drunk guys armed shot up a station trying to get their fried or relative out of jail , they got caught two days later !

    Also there is a heavy tribal infulence when it comes to investigation of the crimes ,this has even crept into the justice system .

    Wasta used to mean the few rich and connected , now it has wide spread to mean the tribal infulence , Not good for society at all .

    Comment by daggero | April 12, 2014 | Reply

  2. I have such mixed feelings about police. They are mostly good people who truly “serve and protect” in our societies, but policing also attracts those who like to bully. Their work is so dangerous – most dangerous of all in breaking up domestic disturbances! We count on them to protect us, and we leave them undertrained and understaffed to do their jobs.

    We have tribal affiliations here, too, but they are not so obvious.

    My favorite Kuwait police story of all was this one.

    Comment by intlxpatr | April 12, 2014 | Reply

  3. Several years ago, they retired 800 of the top police officials in Kuwait to bring in new blood. STUUUUPID!!! All those years of combined knowledge/experience – right out the door.

    It is interesting that about a year later, they brought back the former Minister of Interior, a man who I admire. He stopped the harassment of illegals (also known as the “midnight roundups” and illegal search and seizures).

    Wastah would not be a problem (at ALL) if laws were enforced in Kuwait. en FORCE. Proper training. Proper procedure following. Punishment for those who abuse the system. And with the increase of REALLY violent crimes (like rape and murder), would they please allow police men to carry and use weapons (again, after proper training, SOP enforcement)?

    Historically in Kuwait, those entering the police force are those who want an easy job without an education. There has been a real increase in the quality of officers they are recruiting (including female recruits – yeah!); I’ve seen the changes over the past 18 years. However, there is a long way to go and all the change must take place at the top.

    Comment by Desert Girl | April 13, 2014 | Reply

  4. I agree with what you say, Desert Girl, and before any of this can happen, it has to start, I believe, in the schools. Children have to be taught that citizens of a country abide by the rules. When each citizen believes that the rules apply to others, but not to him/her (Keifee Kuwaiti) then the result is chaos. A well trained, professional police force – and I agree, the police force in Kuwait is evolving in that direction – is a great step in the right direction, too. People have to be educated to respect the law, and to respect the law enforcers, and that starts in childhood, don’t you think?

    Comment by intlxpatr | April 13, 2014 | Reply

  5. What a strangely written article. So much focus on the trolley mafia which has basically zilch to do with wasta considering that those are usually just poor Asian workers trying to score some extra cash. But anyway… True about wasta making it more difficult to enforce the law. In other countries it’s usually the super rich / super powerful that can get their own out of doing jail time but in Kuwait it’s a wide, wide variety of backgrounds and income levels that get away with this. It’s more democratic if you think about it, lol 🙂

    But I have to say that despite this, thank God, I feel pretty safe in Kuwait. Safer than I do in Europe where I have to keep an eye on my phone if I’m in a cafe and keep my hand on my bag when I’m in the subway and so on.

    Comment by Razan | April 15, 2014 | Reply

  6. It is one of those articles so typical of Kuwait and Qatar, elliptical, trying to say something indirectly, not entirely making their point. Who did they ask? How many people did they ask? What nationalities did they ask? The trolley thing, I think, is trying to point to airport enforcers being paid off by the trolley people. That may be true, but on the other hand, there are just so many trolleys and I think the numbers of baggage guys is about equal to the number of trolleys – they just get to the trolleys first and hang on.

    I had to stop and think about “safer”. I live in a less safe part of American, I think. I am thinking that when the agreement between the people and the law enforcement is clear, when the rules and expectations are clear, and enforced equally, I feel safest.

    In these days of electronic theft, not even holding tightly to your purse will keep our money safe. Aarrgh.

    Comment by intlxpatr | April 15, 2014 | Reply

    • I think that has to do with the quality of English-speaking writers in the region. If you read in Arabic it’s a whole other level. I think it would be eye-opening if all the good Arabic newspapers were translated to English. The political analysis is usually a lot deeper, the humour and outlook on society is a lot funnier and more nuanced.

      Comment by Razan | April 16, 2014 | Reply

      • I bet you are right. I also get the impression that some of the writers in the English language papers are trying to say something without exposing themselves to risk of offending someone to the extent of having a case filed against them. They are implying or hinting something, often something I can’t figure out.

        Comment by intlxpatr | April 16, 2014

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