ExpatVoices: The following incident was shared with me by an expat lady and which happened on one of Kuwait’s public transportation service, ‘CityBus‘ last weekend.
“I am a young, educated and decent Asian expatriate who was born and raised in Kuwait. I work for a newspaper. It is very difficult for me to travel in the country after sunset since I do not drive. It is so difficult to get a drivers’ license even though I am capable of owning a vehicle. The government keeps bringing up numerous conditions, making it difficult for expatriates to get licenses. And those who meet the conditions(like I did), the officials intentionally fail us. Some recommended me to try getting a license using ‘wasta’ but I try not to succumb to such corrupt methods.
I am scared of taking taxis alone in the evenings as I have heard several stories of women getting raped. I cannot always rely on my family or friends to pick or drop me everytime. So I thought if I ever get stuck in a situation where I donot have a ride after sunset, I will take a bus. But after a recent traumatizing incident, I started to doubt that option.
On Saturday at 10:20 pm, I boarded bus #88 from Shuwaikh Canada Dry Street and was sitting at the side seats where women generally sit. While the bus was at a signal near Hawally Governorate, a group of Arab youth rushed towards the bus and pounded on the door until the driver opened it. Most of them occupied the seats at the back while a few sat in the front. While I was reading the newspaper, I could hear the boys talking loudly and spitting. When I heard the noise of cloth ripping, I looked to my left to see one of the boys tearing down the curtains. As soon as he caught me looking at him, I turned my face away as I was afraid of getting their attention. Their unruliness made me very nervous particularly since I was the only woman in the bus at that time.
Then the guys started throwing some garbage lying on the ground at me. I ignored it. But when an empty juice pack hit me, I took my cell phone and started recording their activities. They noticed me recording them and rushed towards me in a threatening manner. I immediately put down my phone as I was scared they would grab my phone. They started shouting at me in Arabic and I told them I couldn’t understand. Then one guy shouted ‘Delete’. I said ‘I wont’. He used a few offensive words and ripped the newspaper from me, which I was using as a shield against them. When I said I was working for a newspaper and I will report to my boss about them, one of the guys translated it loud in Arabic and suddenly there was chaos in the bus. I assume I got them nervous with that statement. They rushed out of their seats towards the exit, waiting for the bus to stop. While doing so, they began to slap me and spit on me. I could not defend myself or hit back as I was one woman versus 15 hefty Arab boys. They kept using offensive phrases at me and since I did not want to show that I was scared, I managed to scream back at them and used some offensive terms of my own even though I was trying to protect myself from their slaps and spit. Eventually they left the bus but my hair and face was covered with spit. None of the men in the bus did anything to defend me from these unruly youths. After they left, I spoke to the Nepali driver and he said they use the buses very often and terrorize the people in the bus. I suggested that he should not stop the bus for these boys and he said they would stand in front of the bus as it approached them to make sure he stopped or would throw stones at the windows if he did not stop. I do not blame him, as the poor driver was scared of these youths as well.
I did have a bad experience with this bunch of boys before. Once when I was in the same bus with the same driver and the bus had stopped at a signal, these boys rushed to the bus and starting banging at the door. When the driver refused to open, they forced the door open and entered the bus. Once again I was sitting at the side seats and I saw these boys harassing the driver and shouting at him for not opening the door. One of the boys noticed me sitting on the side and he sat on my lap. I started shouting at him and tried pushing him away but he was too hefty and strong for me. To make it worse, he leaned back and started rubbing himself on me. It was very humiliating for me and I did not report this as I was embarrassed.
I shared this incident with a Filipino friend of mine who stopped using buses due to a particular reason. She explained that when she took a bus last year from Maliya at 9pm, along the way a group of five boys boarded the bus. They began to harass her and her friend by exposing their genitals and standing in front of them. My friend started crying and calling out for help but everyone in the bus including the driver ignored their cries, which encouraged the boys. After this incident, my friend stopped using the bus service.
It is difficult for young women to travel alone in the evenings. I thought traveling by bus would be safe but after such a traumatizing experience, I am not sure anymore.
One of the main problems here is when young boys travel in a group, people are afraid of them and their unruliness. Since travelling by buses is free for students, most of these boys vandalize the buses. I think the government should do something about this. My suggestion is they should not allow students to travel free by bus after 6pm unless they were with their parents. This is a small step to solve this incessant problem experienced by the residents of Kuwait.”
ExpatVoices: This incident is but a reality in this modern state of Kuwait. Really a sad state of affairs in the country and has been going on for a while now. Whoever said that it is safe for women here in Kuwait to travel alone is way wrong. Unless she is travelling in her private vehicle, using the public transportation like buses and taxis is rather risky and has all its hazards. It is always recommended for women to keep their mobiles handy in case of emergencies especially whilst hiring a taxi. Almost everyday there are cases of abduction and rape (maids who are especially vulnerable) and these cases are all but forgotten the next day. Nobody really cares for these poor expat women.
This young expat lady who was travelling back home in a public transport, was manhandled and abused by hooligans trolling the streets after dark. What happened with her friend, was even more shameful and especially that nobody came to their rescue. We really empathise with these poor women who had to undergo such humiliation and abuse from these Arab youth. Where is our humanity -Has it been lost in the world of materialism these day?
Come weekends and you can see these loose wayward youth hanging out on the streets and malls of the country. Places like the Al-Fanar Street, Gulf Road, areas in Salmiya and Hawally are the hangouts of these boys. They hop onto the public transportation buses to move around town as they are allowed to travel free (so its seems) and whilst doing so, create a big nuisance for genuine passengers in the bus.
Late night commuters like the departmental sales ladies in malls around Salmiya, Hawally, Kuwait City depend on the public transport to travel home. It is safe to travel in numbers or when the bus is full. This assumption does not apply always as in case above, even when men were present, nobody came to help! What has the country come upto? Why does anybody don’t want to help? Why the fear? It’s not that the men can’t tackle these hooligans – can they? Really speaking, hearing from people experiences, these hooligans are known to spin out a knife at you at any given point or even pounce on you in groups if you intervene. What would you do if you were one man/woman against 15?
Now the question here is – Where are the lawmakers, the protectors of society - the cops. What is their role in all this? Why are we letting all these incidents happen day in and day out? Then again, comes the question, are the laws really created to protect the hooligans and let them go scotfree? I’ve heard from people that in cases of intervention, if by mistake any one of these young boys had a small scratch and started bleeding, that would be the end of story for the expat. This would turn the whole table against the expat even if he were not in the wrong.
Coming back to ladies travelling around in the country, It is recommended to always travel with a partner who is preferably a male, know you surroundings well – stay tuned, be alert whilst walking on the streets – do not listen to music, don’t wear heavy gold jewellery or display expensive gadgets like iPhone. Call ahead a friend or mate whilst using a taxi – note the info provided about the driver in the taxi. Have someone on speed-dial on your phone for emergencies. If accosted by such hooligans, be strong, do not fear. Call for Help from driver passengers, driver, make a lot of noise, threaten to call the police and do call if necessary.
Is there Hope for the future given the current state? What we need is a good education starting not in schools but at Homes. The parents are to be blame for nor providing a good upbringing to these youth. We really hope and pray that the situation improves for the benefit of society in Kuwait.
I appeal to all people reading this article, and if you are in a position of power, to kindly Make A Difference , do what it takes, to Help people, especially women to feel safe in our country, to carry on their tasks without the fear of being abused and tortured, that the guilty may be punished for their wrong doings and thus our society could prosper in the future.
Citybus: We appeal to kindly investigate into this matter and provide justice. Your drivers should be trained to handle these cases and help women in need. Awaiting your feedback on this incident.
This lady and all the ladies who have been abused appeals for justice and she should be given just that. Won’t you Help Make a Difference?
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Video taken by this lady during the incident:
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