.... International Women's Day.....
I get warden notices from the US Embassy all the time (as you do when you - as an American or with an American child who is registered at the embassy will). I consider many of them "alarmist" and I feel that they tend to scare the newcomers to Kuwait or people considering a move here.
This one just pissed me off, so I thought I would share/vent.
March 5, 2009
To: All American Wardens
From: Consular Section
Subject: Warden Notice 2009 – 3
Please circulate the following message without additions or omissions immediately to all American citizens within your area of responsibility.
While the general security condition in Kuwait remains unchanged a recent assault on an American is a good reminder of the need for security awareness.Earlier this week a western woman shopping at the Sultan Center in Salmiya was a victim of an attempted sexual assault at that location. After finishing her shopping, the woman placed her purchases in the car and went into a store. While there, she went to the bathroom. As she opened her stall door to exit, a man was standing there. He pushed her back into the stall and groped her. The woman fought her way past him and reported the incident to security. The man unfortunately got away. The woman believes the same individual may have been following her while she shopped earlier in Sultan Center.
Americans are reminded, as in the past, that it is very important to keep an eye on who may be observing your activities while shopping or conducting normal activities in Kuwait. Surveillance is not something that is just done by terrorists – almost every criminal who commits a crime conducts some sort of surveillance on their target either seconds, minutes, or hours before trying to commit a crime or assault a person.
Western women in Kuwait should be particularly vigilant because their dress and freedom of movement can attract attention, in part because many local women are dressed much differently. Especially when shopping or going to other public places in Kuwait, or anywhere in the world, keep the following in mind:
Ok first and foremost ladies... Don't get all crazy when a man starts following you. That's cultural here. You have to know the signals. Don't speak to or smile at strange men. It can be construed as a come-on. (If you want to meet a strange man - on the other hand - smile and chat and make direct eye contact.)
Most of us shop at the Sultan Center. A lot of men "troll" The Sultan Center because they know they are going to meet Western women. They might strike up a conversation like, "Are you a teacher?" TSC actually doesn't allow single men entrance on the weekend nights because it becomes feeding frenzy for desperados.
[Sidenote: There used to be one bold guy who periodically drove under the "Tikka" restaurant nextdoor to TSC in Salmiya with his pants off. Anyone sitting in the restaurant above had a clear view - as well as near passers-by on the street. I don't think anyone caught him either, but it was quite entertaining (if you happened to have a microscope). Dude was infamous.]
When a man gropes you - that's criminal in most places in the world. TSC security guards aren't going to help you; most don't have a good comprehension of English and don't feel empowered to assist even if they did. TSC security guards are NOT Kuwaiti; if you see one in national dress (qutara/aghal), he is most likely Bedoun (without nationality), so won't feel like he can help. The police will take forever to arrive (if at all).
Oh - and by the way, TSC has cameras all over their stores (as many shops in Kuwait do). I'm pretty sure she could have identified him that way IF TSC and/or the police were cooperative.
Your best bet (and what the warden notice did not state) is to scream. These guys are cowards and will most likely run. You can also scream for help in English, "Somebody help me!" and often times real men will come to your aid (and then give you their phone number). The other thing you can do is take your mobile phone out and start snapping his picture (to scare him and to show the police if you want to go there). I take out my camera and snap photos when the creatures play silly games in their cars. It gets rid of them quick.
Now, here is the part that pissed me off about the Warden's Notice. I believe it must have been written by a man, and I don't think it was appropriate to state in an official embassy notification:
"Western women in Kuwait should be particularly vigilant because their dress and freedom of movement can attract attention, in part because many local women are dressed much differently. " This implies that Western (in this case American) women dress inappropriately for the country and that we attract attention. It also implies that "local women" do not have freedom of movement. It further states that local women dress differently than Western (in this case American) women.
How do you feel about that statement? I don't think that non-hejab-wearing women dress much differently than Western women (and for many women who wear hejab, the only difference is often the scarf). I think for the most part that most Western women try to dress appropriately for Kuwait - and again for the most part - conservatively by Western standards. I dress like my Kuwaiti girlfriends (who don't wear hejab) and vice versa. I have Moslem American friends who wear hejab and some who wear abaya and niqab. And "freedom of movement"? Yeh! Where in Kuwait and at what time don't Kuwaiti women go? They're free to move. I don't get it. This just pissed me off.
Happy International Women's Day.
Last night on 5th Ring Road, 2 WOMEN tried to push past my car (and others) making lanes in between lanes, swerving in and out - playing monkey games on the road. I took out my mobile phone and started recording and low and behold - they exited quietly. It is amazing what the fear of YouTube does to people!