The Country & People of Kuwait
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Kuwait, officially State of Kuwait, independent sheikhdom (1995 est. pop. 1,817,000), 6,177 sq mi (16,000 sq km), NE Arabian peninsula, at the head of the Persian Gulf, bounded by Saudi Arabia (S) and Iraq (N and W). The capital is Kuwait. It is a sandy and barren country. With more than 10% of the world's estimated oil reserves, Kuwait is a leading exporter of petroleum and has used some of the enormous profits for social improvements. In the 1960s the government launched a program of industrial diversification, successfully introducing oil refining and production of natural gas and fertilizers. The population is predominantly Arab and Sunni Muslim, although only half the inhabitants are native-born.
Kuwait, settled by Arab tribes in the early 18th cent., has been ruled since its inception by the al-Sabah dynasty. Nominally an Ottoman province, the sheikhdom became a British protectorate in 1897, remaining so until independence in 1961. Oil production began in the 1940s and was controlled by a joint British-American firm until 1974, when Kuwait nationalized most of the operations. Kuwait took part in the Arab oil embargo against nations that supported Israel in the 1973 Arab-Israeli War and is a member of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC).
In Aug. 1990, Kuwait was invaded and forcibly annexed by Iraq, an act that led to and was reversed by the Persian Gulf War. The war and widespread looting and intentional destruction by Iraqi troops devastated Kuwait, particularly its oil fields, but by the end of 1992 the country had repaired nearly all the damage and its oil output was at about the prewar level. Large areas of land, however, remained environmentally devastated. In 1992, opposition candidates won a majority of the seats in parliament; the al-Sabah family, however, continued to dominate the government.
An Iraqi military buildup near the Kuwait border led the U.S. to send troops to Kuwait in 1994.
Parliament was dissolved by the sheikh in May 1999; elections in July gave Islamist and liberal candidates the most seats. An edict (1999) by the sheikh giving Kuwaiti women the right to vote and run for office failed to win parliamentary ratification.
In the July, 2003, parliamentary elections Islamists won 42% of the seats, while liberals retained only a handful; government supporters won 28% of the seats.
The government finally succeeded in securing parliamentary ratification of political rights for women in May, 2005.
In Jan., 2006, Emir Jaber died; he was succeeded by Emir Saad al-Abdullah al-Sabah, who was himself in poor health. Emir Saad was soon removed from office for health reasons by the parliament, and the prime minister, Emir Sabah al-Ahmad al-Sabah, succeeded him. Clashing in parliament over consolidating voting districts, which opposition members wanted in order to prevent vote-buying, led the emir to call new elections. In the June vote, women voted for the first time, but no female candidate won a seat; reformers, both largely Islamists, won 36 of the 50 seats.
Differences between the cabinet and the parliament led the government to resign in Mar., 2008. The May parliamentary elections largely repeated the results of two years before, with Islamists again controling the largest number of seats. A power struggle over some legislators demands to be allowed to question the prime minister, Sheikh Nasser al-Mohammad al-Sabah, about the circumstances of an Iranian cleric's visit led the government to resign in November; the emir reappointed Sheikh Nasser the following month, and a new cabinet was formed in Jan., 2009.
In Mar., 2009, however, legislators and the government were again in a standoff, and when the government again resigned, the emir dissolved parliament. Sunni Islamists suffered some losses in the May elections, which also produced Kuwait's first female legislators; the emir again asked Sheikh Nasser to form a government.
Copyright (c) 2012 Columbia University Press.
Used by permission of Columbia University Press.
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- American School of Kuwait
For students who seek entrance into the finest of stateside colleges and universities
- British School of Kuwait Most rigorous, rounded and relevant British style education in Kuwait
- Gulf English School Bilingual, all-age school based upon the British national curriculum
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Responsible for all aspects of the UNCC claims process in Kuwait
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- Al-Rashid Hospital Private hospital in Salmiya
- Kuwait National Petroleum Company Core purpose is to provide a strategic role in the Kuwaiti oil sector
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- Kuwait Red Crescent Society A voluntary humanitarian society providing help and assistance to the most vulnerable people
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- Marriott JW Kuwait Connected to the prestigious Al Salhiya shopping and office complex
- Messilah Beach Hotel Midway between the airport and the city centre
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