Reclaiming Spaces: Kuwaiti Women in the Karamat Watan Protests

Emanuela Buscemi

Producción científica


A series of unprecedented protests occurred in Kuwait between October and December 2012 in response to the dissolving of the Parliament and the abrupt revision of the electoral law. Thousands of Kuwaitis joined the Karamat Watan (A Nation’s Dignity) campaign demanding the resignation of Prime Minister Sheikh Nasser Al-Sabah. Following his resignation, along with the rest of the parliament and the appointed government (BBC 2011) in November 2011, due to the pressure of public mobilization and the revelation of corruption scandals, parliamentary elections were held in February 2012, marking the rise of an opposition majority. However, the parliament was dissolved a few months later and an emergency decree was issued in October.
On October 21 2012, over 50,000 people marched on the panoramic coastal Gulf Road for the first Karamat Watan demonstration. The following day, the Ministry of Interior issued a ban on any unlicensed public gatherings of more than twenty people. A demonstration followed on November 4, still without a permit. For the third protest, held on November 16, activists obtained a license. These protests sparked a widespread boycott of the December 2012 elections, effectively reducing voters’ turnout (Black 2012) and significantly affecting the composition of the new parliament (Smith Diwan 2012).
The present paper investigates the motivation of Karamat Watan women activists in two different arenas in which women protested: the physical space in the streets and cyberspace.
By means of inter-generational support, social media mobilization and breaking pre-existing taboos on activism, while simultaneously drawing on previous political campaigns, women were able to voice their dissent and articulate their political agenda. In doing so, they reached beyond “the stereotype of the silent, passive, subordinate, victimized, and powerless Muslim woman” (Charrad 2011, 418). These women’s mobilization created in them a “new civic sense” (Kandiyoti 2011) that enabled them to counter their vicarious citizenship (lived by proxy) in their patriarchal society (Human Rights Watch 2015).
Findings are based on interviews with women activists that were conducted in Kuwait between September 2012 and May 2013, and between January and May 2015, as well as online data sources. In order to protect their anonymity, real names were changed.
Idioma originalEnglish
Título de la publicación alojadaWomen Rising
Subtítulo de la publicación alojadaResistance, Revolution, and Reform in the Arab Spring and Beyond
EditoresMounira Charrad, Rita Stephan
Lugar de publicaciónNew York
EditorialNew York University Press
Número de páginas353
ISBN (versión digital)9781479883035
ISBN (versión impresa)9781479846641
EstadoPublished - 2020


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