Sunday, March 08, 2009

US Embassy Warden Notice

.... 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.

Begin Text.

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:

(it continues)

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.

15 March

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!


Mohammed said...

i agree with u ...

us embassy always scared american citizen when they come to kuwait by these kind of notice !!!

this happend to an american teacher he comes to kuwait to give us some course in our job ....

we take this course in kuniv. clasees aftrenon ....

me and my friend decide that we should take the teacher trip around kuwait , coz this is was his first visit to the gulf in his life ...

we suggest that to him and he was very happy but in same time he was little feel uncomfort ...

so after the class finish we took him in our car and start to show him kuwait city ... mubarkiya market we went there show him old market ... and for our luck he saw many westren ppl and american men female shopping there he was amaze ...

after that we take him to marina mall ... kuwait tower ... and ....etc

in the end we go to restarunt in one of the hotel and he start talking and tell us what he was think b4 and after this tour ..

he told me that b4 he come to kuwait he recive a big list of warning !!! dont go here dont do that dont talk to this bbbbblllllub

and for that reason he was a little scared when we ask him to take him in tour around kuwait ...

but after whar he see and what he feel that kuwaiti ppl are friendly ... they are not same what he think ...

he thought that all kuwaiti are same al qaida ppl ... or mojahden !!

he told us ... he will change this black picture from his family and friends about kuwait when he come back to us ...

and till now he is very close friend and he invite us to visit him and stay at his home in florida :)

so i agree with u ,,,

embassy should erase this kind of image and notice ...

kuwaiti ppl ... will never forget what US did for them ...

we love america :)

Anonymous said...

I saw this notice elsewhere and I thought exactly the same thing! Totally agreed. Your advice is right on.

Anonymous said...

I feel the need to complain about this posting. It is littered with errors and quite frankly an invasion on this ladies privacy.

First off, the report is wrong. The lady in question was not American. It did not happen at the Sultan Centre, thus far TSC have been very cooperative with police investigations. Which I’m sure they'll be very happy to continue do so with all the negative publicity you have just given them. Will be great for this women’s case! So thank you!

Regarding the cameras, the mall which the incident happened did have security cameras; however images were not clear enough to identify anyone.

The person this happened to is not overly impressed that an Embassy not related to her is sending out information when the majority of it is wrong. Also did not feel the need to contact her to say they were sending a notice that concerns personal matters about her.

The person in question was born in Kuwait and has spent the majority of her life in the country, so she is well aware of how to deal with local men in this country. This lady is now been inundated with calls about the incident which she does not really want to clarify every little detail which you have decided to published incorrectly.

I would appreciate if this posting was taken down. It is an experience she would prefer to forget about and your posting is not helping matters.

I have personally known this woman for nearly 20 years and oh yeah so do you.

Anonymous said...

I read your post last night, and it pissed me off then. Just now, I was handed a copy of the warning out of Al Watan by my Supervisor, stapled closed with the advice to "Be Aware!" muttered in an undertone. >:-(

I appreciate that my work considers my safety, enough to xerox a copy of an incident and make sure that I am informed. However, the tone of the article...still leaves some things to be desired.

I've been in a similar situation in the United States, and was successful by, yes, screaming at the top of my lungs. When he backed off and started to run, I chased him. Screaming. He was eventually caught and did prison time.

I attract attention everywhere and not in the least because of the way I dress (I was raised Mormon). I'm tall, walk with my head up and long strides.

The Embassy is ridiculous, attaching a tag like "dressed much differently" and "freedom of movement" to this- last I checked, hijab provides the same range of movement to those who do no cover, and my attire is no different than any other lady present (unless dirty Converse have suddenly become bait for sexual predators?)

I do know, that absolutely no man in Kuwait that I've run across wants the chance of being spotted being beaten up by a lady. Scream your lungs out, keep screaming,beat him with anything you can reach, and someone will help you for the sole chance of looking like they are saving you. ;-)

Desert Girl said...

Annoyed Friend:

While I thank you very sincerely for the clarification, I am discussing the US EMBASSY'S WARDEN NOTICE THAT WAS CIRCULATED TO ALL AMERICANS. I didn't have any part in either writing it nor distributing it. It was something that was mass-distrubuted publicly.

I'm sorry if our (?) friend is embarrassed by this, however, I don't know who she is and again, this relates to a circular that the embassy chose to distribute - and without anyone's name attached to it.

Invasion of her privacy: Hey - put my name on it as no one else's was. I don't believe her privacy could be invaded if NO ONE KNOWS WHO SHE IS. I would be happy to relate a story like this as it MIGHT JUST HELP ANOTHER WOMAN IN A SIMILAR CIRCUMSTANCE.

Negative publicity about TSC: This blog is in reference to my perspective. I have had several incidents at the TSC where I requested the assistance of the TSC security guards; and in those several cases, I was not assisted even when I escallated it to the manager. However, incidents like this can happen anywhere (like you said - it wasn't in TSC), and I believe my post could be related to many shops in Kuwait.

Since you obviously know me, then you should know my e-mail address and perhaps you should have chosen to take this off-line - which you can still do.

I'm not taking the posting down because perhaps it will help people coming to Kuwait understand 1) what to do if they have problems similar to this and what I believe to be (from my experience again) the correct way to handle it
and 2) That many of these distributed notifications do indeed cause harm; either being circulated with incorrect information by embassy personnel; or phrased so that people are caused undue emotional stress over often minor incidents (this one not included).

I believe I addressed the areas of my concern in reference to the notice in my post.

abolesanzalef said...

ASalamaikom Wb

Dear Amer...

Its really amaziing when read that funny notice... how come to the first man here in kuwait for americans(ambassador) to declare that kind of shits to american people who live here.... did not he know that may fear them even to go outside????? i know and read more about lots od warninigs to american people.. but i dont really why??

I think there are more 36 nationalities here in kuwait and all are safe and free... we did not hear about warnings from their ambassador at all....

Even american who just come here recieved warning before coming here,,, really strange... I think you are sure that usa citizens here in kuwait have a special care from government as poice too......

I need to write more but .......

Desert Girl said...

Anonymous (Screamer): I've found that it even helps at work. People generally leave you alone! LOL.

You know what is funny that as an after-thought people always ask a victim, "Why didn't you scream?" Yeah... why didn't you scream? The line you always hear on TV is, "Did you tell him to stop?"


I'm very happy to state that our Ambassador is a woman, Mrs. Deborah Jones and SHE ROCKS and her daughters ROCK for reading my blog. Her husband, Mr. ROCKS, is the US Ambassador to the UAE. Well hell - THE WHOLE DAMN FAMILY JUST ROCKS and I bet if they have a pet, IT ROCKS too! :) I don't think that Mrs. Jones is responsible for editing everything that goes out.

And by the way, anything I receive from the Embassy, I am grateful for. (Any feedback can be seen as positive, right?) Its just that this one struck a nerve.

In the past few years, being American in Kuwait hasn't been much of a help in any cases where I needed official assistance. I think there are just too many of us around now and we are kind of a whiney bunch (ergo this blog)! :)

Anonymous said...

To annoyed friend,
In no way was anyone's name/details mentioned, so there is no privacy issue. Furthermore, this kind of incident probably happens twice a day in Kuwait, so would it not be quite possible that there was more than one incident? DUH.

Moreover, having done more shopping than I would ever care to do (yes, that is possible, apparently) in Kuwait, I can tell you that those security guards are useless. Utterly useless. Particularly if your problem is with a Kuwaiti citizen. Get to talking to some more talkative GCC citizens and/or just read the crime pages and you will realize that many, many of the 3rd world workers there would be beaten or fired if they actually did their jobs. No way will some poor foreign dude grab a Kuwaiti/Saudi/etc. man who has assaulted you. You cannot expect them to. At best, you can appeal to any other dude in a dishdasha and let him come to your rescue cowboy style and rely on the security guy to act as a witness to the whole vigilante nonsense. Other places, security guards are supported by management staff and treated fairly in the legal system as the equal to the perpetrator; in Kuwait, if the perp has more wasta (and he probably will) the guard is screwed.

DG's advice is spot on and appropriate. It keeps someone from having to mutely put up with being victimized, and from walking away disappointed with living in Kuwait. She provides a realistic, effective alternative to just being victimized and accepting it. I, personally, find it helpful. If you don't, that's your problem, but don't presume that she is just exploiting a situation that NEEDS to be addressed just because she isn't willing to do anything to keep things all hushed up. The standard warden messages always make me feel like being a woman, just an ordinary american woman, is like walking around with a flaming sign reading "whore"...people who are targets shouldn't be made to feel like they MUST be doing something dirty/wrong/stupid to cause it, and that's just what those messages, with the inevitable codecile about dress and freedom of movement, do. DG, thank you for mentioning has been something that has quietly pissed me off every time I read these.


Desert Girl said...

Hi Mohammed, I received your comment, but do you really want me to publish your phone number? I would think that would be more appropriate on your own blog/site. I have indeed posted your comments (above). I'm not going to call you or SMS you because I don't know you. If you want to e-mail me, feel free.

Anonymous said...

I think you're hilarious. I love reading your blog and I actually found it by coincidence before leaving North America to come live in Kuwait an have been reading it ever since. I'll bet comments by "Annoyed friends" make writing this blog just this much more fun. Please keep it up and thank you.

Anonymous said...

I wish I would have found this blog before going to Kuwait. I was there last December for 3 weeks and had my fair share of experiences with men harassing me. One time I spent a few hours taking pictures and shopping at City Center and a guy that I later found out works at one of the fruit stands followed me around for part of the day. I couldn't find a guard to help me, but earlier when I was taking pictures he was there to yell at me.

The most annoying part was every time I lit a cigarette in a public place, I would find at least 2 or 3 guys coming up for a light and immediately asking for my phone number. Does a smoking woman equal prostitute in Kuwait? It got old very quickly.

q8muslim said...

Mohammed 3:09 PM

dont get me wrong i agree all americans are not bad but you are forgetting iraq-iran war and iraq-kuwait war was an inside job you are happy now but what about the iraqi citizens?

abolesanzalef said...

Dear friend....2:09 PM
Anonymous said...
I wish I would have found this blog before going to Kuwait. I was there last December for 3 weeks and had my fair share of experiences with men harassing me. One time I spent a few hours taking pictures and shopping at City Center and a guy that I later found .......

--just want to sat that king of people are found everywhere, not only in Kuwait..So dont make a relation between these bad guys and Kuwait.......

bathmate said...

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