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Country Reports

Kuwait Country Report

Overview

INTRODUCTION 

The small and prosperous monarchy of Kuwait (population 4.2 million), rich in natural resources (oil and natural gas), is located on the Arabian Peninsula along the Persian Gulf coast. Despite occasional periods of crisis, foreign visitors generally encounter few complications during their stays.

POLITICS

Kuwait is a constitutional monarchy headed by Emir Sabah IV. Although Kuwait's Parliament is one of the Gulf region's most powerful legislative bodies, the Al-Sabah ruling family remains the country's main political actor (as the Parliament has been dissolved nine times since its creation in 1962). However, elections in November 2016 brought a wind of change as the opposition party gained nearly 60 percent of the seats in parliament, which then led to the formation of a new government, representative of Kuwait's diversity.

TERRORISM

Due to its location, the risk of a terrorist attack in Kuwait is not insignificant. Its proximity to Iraq increases the threat of terrorist groups infiltrating the territory, despite increase in of its security measures along the border.

Islamic State (IS) and Al-Qa'ida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) have called upon their followers to attack Western interests throughout the Middle East. Major suicide attacks that occurred in eastern Saudi Arabia on May 22 and 29, 2015, and claimed by the Saudi branch of IS, also known as "Wilayat Najd" ("Najd Province" in Arabic), testify to the presence of IS fighters in the Arabian Peninsula. The terrorist threat in Kuwait reached its height on June 26, 2015, when a suicide bomber targeted a Shi'ite mosque in Kuwait City, killing 27 people and wounding many others. This bombing was claimed by the IS Saudi affiliate.

Additionally, given the poor security conditions in neighboring Iraq, the infiltration of terrorist groups into Kuwaiti territory cannot be ruled out. The fact that Kuwait currently hosts foreign armies taking part in the coalition-led airstrikes against IS in Syria and Iraq increases the terrorist threat. Several incidents targeting Kuwaiti authorities as well as coalition forces were reported in 2016.

In February 2017, a top Kuwaiti official was sentenced to ten years in prison after fighting and recruiting for IS in Iraq and Syria. A few months earlier, a Filipino woman was also sentenced to ten years in jail for planning terrorist attacks in Kuwait.

SOCIAL UNREST

Though the number of demonstrations has sharply decreased since 2013, civil society movements and opposition parties continue to call on their members to demonstrate in Kuwait City's downtown areas (e.g., the central Al-Irada Square). As demonstrations must officially receive prior approval from the Ministry of the Interior, unauthorized gatherings are often violently dispersed by security forces.

Though demonstrations remain rare, organized industrial actions do occasionally occur and can be highly disruptive. In late April 2016, Kuwaiti oil-workers went on a three-day strike over a salary dispute. The industrial action led to significant disruptions to the country's oil supply.

CRIME

Kuwait City presents little risk to travelers. Only travel to the district of Jeleeba al-Shuyoukh, located near the airport, would require certain precautions.

In 2016, Kuwaiti authorities have faced a significant increase in criminal activity, which sometimes targets foreign nationals, who comprise approximately two-thirds of the population. However, official statistics remain scarce. Common crimes include petty theft, especially in outdoor markets and shopping malls frequented by tourists, as well as credit card fraud.

More generally, it should be noted that women are particularly at risk of physical and verbal harassment and that the number of such incidents is on the rise. It is advised for women not to travel alone, especially at night, even by taxi.

TRANSPORTATION

Kuwait International Airport (KWI) is the only commercial airport in the country. Security is problematic, although security measures are improving.

Although Kuwait has a bus network, the car remains the main mode of transportation. Taxis are available at the entrance of major hotels and at the airport. Roads are in good condition but driving can be dangerous in Kuwait as locals drive fast and aggressively. According to a report by the Interior Ministry, about 500 people die on Kuwaiti roads each year. These accidents are less due to the state of the roads, which are well-maintained, and more to blame on reckless drivers and heavy traffic.

Desert excursions should be avoided due to the presence of unexploded mines left after the First Gulf War of 1990-1991 (Iraqi invasion of Kuwait).

In the case of an accident, contact the police, whose phone number is 112.

Surrounding waters are heavily militarized. Maritime boundaries are yet undetermined in the northern Persian Gulf (i.e., the area between Iran, Iraq, and Kuwait) and any boat in the area may be detained and/or searched at any time for security purposes.

NATURAL RISKS

Finally, summers in Kuwait can be extreme; temperatures occasionally rise above 50°C (120°F). Similarly, the country is occasionally affected by sand storms which reduce visibility and thus disrupt driving. Torrential rains are common from November to March and sometimes lead to flooding due to a lack of infrastructure, including proper drainage systems, to deal with excess water. In October 2015, violent flooding hit parts of the country leading to road and school closures, including in the capital, as well as flight delays and cancelations.

HEALTH

Kuwait's health infrastructure is up to standards. However costs, controlled by the state, can be very high (care for travelers and expatriates was increased in October 2017). Travelers are advised to take out an insurance policy to cover medical fees as well as medical evacuation and repatriation prior to departure. 

Local authorities are closely monitoring the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus (MERS-CoV), as the disease could lead to an epidemic. Kuwait has had four MERS cases since 2013, but the World Health Organization (WHO) considers the risk of infection to be minimal. MERS is a viral respiratory disease caused by a novel coronavirus (MERS‐CoV). Typical MERS symptoms include fever, coughing, and shortness of breath. Pneumonia is common, but not always present. Gastrointestinal symptoms, including diarrhea, have also been reported. Approximately 36 percent of reported patients with MERS have died.

There are cases of animal rabies in the country but they remain scarce. The main line of defense against rabies is to avoid contact with both domestic and wild mammals. If you are scratched or bitten, seek medical attention as soon as possible. 

Individuals who have traveled to a country affected by yellow fever must submit a vaccination certificate upon entering Kuwaiti territory.

LEGAL

Kuwait is a Muslim country. It is recommended to respect local laws and customs and to dress accordingly. During Ramadan (taking place from mid-May to mid-June in 2018), travelers are advised not to drink, eat, or smoke during daylight hours in front of observant Muslims.

Importing alcohol or pork is forbidden and may be lead to a prison sentence.

Photography of government buildings as well as military and industrial facilities is sanctioned by law.

Drug trafficking is punishable by death.

Sexual relations outside of marriage are punished by law.

Climate

Kuwait has an arid climate. Summers (May to October) are very hot (40°C) with high levels of humidity; during this time the Shamal, a violent and dusty wind, can provoke sandstorms. Winters (November to April) are milder (8°C to 19°C) with cool, even cold nights and low levels of rainfall.

Useful Numbers

Country Code:  +965 Emergency Services:  112 Police-Emergency:  538 20 00 Civil Defense:  539 51 31/32/33/34/35

Electricity

Voltage: 240 V ~ 50 Hz

Outlets:

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