Former minister slams MPs for allegedly blackmailing officials

March 17, 2010

Nouria Al Sbaih - Al Qabas

Kuwait’s former education minister has accused lawmakers of abusing their positions to ask for favours from ministers.

“There are MPs who are blackmailing ministers. The minister has either to accept their demands, regardless of their legitimacy, or face grilling,” Nouria Al Sbaih, said. “Such practices cannot be called democracy, and are blatant blackmail,” the former minister was quoted as saying by Al Qabas daily on Wednesday.

Kuwaitis must be highly selective in choosing their representatives and must stress competence and not tribalism and sectarianism, she said.

“The people of Kuwait should be the ones who assess the performance of any minister or lawmaker.”

Nouria has had a stormy history with conservative MPs who opposed her nomination in April 2007 as Kuwait’s first woman education minister and shouted and jeered as she took the oath of office after she refused to wear a headscarf in parliament.

One MP, Dhaiffallah Bou Ramia, was forced by parliament Speaker Jassem Al Khurafi to sit down after he stood and shouted during the ceremony.

Sharing her experience with a group of university students, Nouria said that she was pleased with her two-year experience in the government despite all the constant attention and regular scrutiny she was under.

“It was a wonderful opportunity and I was determined to succeed because my success was that of the Kuwaiti women, while my failure would have been a serious setback to women’s progress in the country,” she told the students in her first public activity since she left the government in May 2009.

Increasing the number of scholarships available to Kuwaiti students from 200 to 500, boosting e-learning and improving the curricula were some of her achievements, she said.

Nouria denied claims that she planned to contest in the next parliamentary elections, despite requests from some MPs to join them.

Kuwaiti women have long struggled to elevate their political status in a conservative society.

In June 2005 Massouma Al Mubarak, a political science professor and columnist, became Kuwait’s first woman minister after she was given the planning and administrative development portfolios. Her nomination was announced one month after parliament agreed to let women vote and run for office.



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About the author

Born August 3, 1960 in Monastir, Tunisia
Media career:
  • ABC News (Tunisia)
  • Bahrain Tribune
  • Gulf News
  • Bahrain Television News
Teaching career:
  • Monastir (Tunisia)
  • University of Bahrain
  • MA  Mass Communications, University of Leicester
  • BA  in English & US literature and studies, University of Tunis

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