Kuwait

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This article is about the modern country in the Persian Gulf. For the former autonomous state in southern Arabia, see Qu'aiti.

Coordinates: 29°30′N 45°45′E / 29.500°N 45.750°E / 29.500; 45.750

State of Kuwait
دولة الكويت
Dawlat al-Kuwait
Emblem of Kuwait
Flag Emblem
Anthem: "Al-Nasheed Al-Watani"
"National Anthem"
Location of  Kuwait  (red)in the Arabian Peninsula  (light yellow)
Location of  Kuwait  (red)

in the Arabian Peninsula  (light yellow)

Capital
and largest city
Kuwait City
29°22′N 47°58′E / 29.367°N 47.967°E / 29.367; 47.967
Official languages Arabic
Ethnic groups
  • 60% Arab (31.3% Kuwaiti, 27.9% other Arabs)[1]
  • 37.8% Asian
  • 1.9% African
Religion Islam
Demonym Kuwaiti
Government Unitary constitutional monarchy[1]
 •  Emir Sabah Ahmad al-Sabah
 •  Crown Prince Nawaf Ahmad al-Sabah
 •  Speaker of the National Assembly Marzouq Ali al-Ghanim
 •  Prime Minister Jaber Mubarak al-Sabah
Legislature National Assembly
Establishment
 •  Independence from the Emirate of Al Hasa 1752 
 •  Anglo-Ottoman Convention 1913 
 •  End of treaties with the United Kingdom 19 June 1961 
Area
 •  Total 17,820 km2 (157th)
6,880 sq mi
 •  Water (%) negligible
Population
 •  2014 estimate 4,044,500 (140th)
 •  2005 census 2,213,403 [2]
 •  Density 200.2/km2 (61st)
518.4/sq mi
GDP (PPP) 2014 estimate
 •  Total $283.976 billion[3] (52nd)
 •  Per capita $71,020[3] (5th)
GDP (nominal) 2014 estimate
 •  Total $172.350 billion[3] (55th)
 •  Per capita $43,103[3] (23rd)
HDI (2014) Steady 0.816[4]
very high · 48th
Currency Kuwaiti dinar (KWD)
Time zone AST / KSA (UTC+3)
 •  Summer (DST) not observed (UTC+3)
Date format dd/mm/yyyy (CE)
Drives on the right
Calling code +965
ISO 3166 code KW
Internet TLD .kw
a. Nominal succession within the House of Sabah.
b. Emirate

Kuwait Listeni/kˈwt/ (Arabic: دولة الكويت‎‎ About this sound Dawlat al-Kuwait), officially the State of Kuwait, is a country in Western Asia. Situated in the northern edge of Eastern Arabia at the tip of the Persian Gulf, it shares borders with Iraq and Saudi Arabia. As of 2014, Kuwait has a population of 4.1 million people; 1.2 million are Kuwaitis and 2.8 million are expatriates.[5]

Oil reserves were discovered in 1938. From 1946 to 1982, the country underwent large-scale modernization. In the 1980s, Kuwait experienced a period of geopolitical instability and an economic crisis following the stock market crash. In 1990, Kuwait was invaded by Iraq. The Iraqi occupation came to an end in 1991 after military intervention by United States-led forces. At the end of the war, there were extensive efforts to revive the economy and rebuild national infrastructure.

Kuwait is an autocracy with a high income economy backed by the world's sixth largest oil reserves. The Kuwaiti dinar is the highest valued currency in the world.[6] Kuwait is widely regarded as one of the world's biggest funders of Islamic terrorism.[7] In recent years, political instability has hindered the country's diversification.[8][9]

History

Main article: History of Kuwait

Early history

In 1613, the town of Kuwait was founded in modern-day Kuwait City. In 1716, the Bani Utubs settled in Kuwait. At the time of the arrival of the Utubs, Kuwait was inhabited by a few fishermen and primarily functioned as a fishing village.[10] In the eighteenth century, Kuwait prospered and rapidly became the principal commercial center for the transit of goods between India, Muscat, Baghdad and Arabia.[11][12] By the mid 1700s, Kuwait had already established itself as the major trading route from the Persian Gulf to Aleppo.[13]

During the Persian siege of Basra in 1775–79, Iraqi merchants took refuge in Kuwait and were partly instrumental in the expansion of Kuwait's boat-building and trading activities.[14] As a result, Kuwait's maritime commerce boomed.[14] Between the years 1775 and 1779, the Indian trade routes with Baghdad, Aleppo, Smyrna and Constantinople were diverted to Kuwait.[13][15] The East India Company was diverted to Kuwait in 1792.[16] The East India Company secured the sea routes between Kuwait, India and the east coasts of Africa.[16] After the Persians withdrew from Basra in 1779, Kuwait continued to attract trade away from Basra.[17]

Kuwait was the center of boat building in the Persian Gulf region.[18][19] During the late eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, vessels made in Kuwait carried the bulk of trade between the ports of India, East Africa and the Red Sea.[20][21][22] Kuwaiti ship vessels were renowned throughout the Indian Ocean.[23] Regional geopolitical turbulence helped foster economic prosperity in Kuwait in the second half of the 18th century.[24] Kuwait became prosperous due to Basra's instability in the late 18th century.[25] In the late 18th century, Kuwait partly functioned as a haven for Basra's merchants fleeing Ottoman government persecution.[26] According to Palgrave, Kuwaitis developed a reputation as the best sailors in the Persian Gulf.[23][27][28]

The Great Depression negatively impacted Kuwait's economy starting in the late 1920s.[29] International trading was one of Kuwait's main sources of income before oil.[29] Kuwaiti merchants were mostly intermediary merchants.[29] As a result of European decline of demand for goods from India and Africa, the economy of Kuwait suffered. The decline in international trade resulted in an increase in gold smuggling by Kuwaiti ships to India.[29] Some Kuwaiti merchant families became rich due to gold smuggling to India.[30] Kuwait's pearling industry also collapsed as a result of the worldwide economic depression.[30] At its height, Kuwait's pearling industry led the world's luxury market, regularly sending out between 750 and 800 ship vessels to meet the European elite's need for pearls.[30] During the economic depression, luxuries like pearls were in little demand.[30] The Japanese invention of cultured pearls also contributed to the collapse of Kuwait's pearling industry.[30]

Following the Kuwait–Najd War of 1919–20, Ibn Saud imposed a trade blockade against Kuwait from the years 1923 until 1937.[29] The goal of the Saudi economic and military attacks on Kuwait was to annex as much of Kuwait's territory as possible. At the Uqair conference in 1922, the boundaries of Kuwait and Najd were set. Kuwait had no representative at the Uqair conference. Ibn Saud persuaded Sir Percy Cox to give him two-thirds of Kuwait's territory. More than half of Kuwait was lost due to Uqair. After the Uqair conference, Kuwait was still subjected to a Saudi economic blockade and intermittent Saudi raiding.

1980s to present day

In the early 1980s, Kuwait experienced a major economic crisis after the Souk Al-Manakh stock market crash and decrease in oil price.[31]

During the Iran-Iraq war, Kuwait supported Iraq. Throughout the 1980s, there were several terror attacks in Kuwait, including the 1983 Kuwait bombings, hijacking of several Kuwait Airways planes and attempted assassination of Emir Jaber in 1985. Kuwait was a regional hub of science and technology in the 1960s and 1970s up until the early 1980s,[32] the scientific research sector significantly suffered due to the terror attacks.[32]

Oil fires in Kuwait in 1991, which were a result of the scorched earth policy of Iraqi military forces retreating from Kuwait.

After the Iran-Iraq war ended, Kuwait declined an Iraqi request to forgive its US$65 billion debt.[33] An economic rivalry between the two countries ensued after Kuwait increased its oil production by 40 percent.[34] Tensions between the two countries increased further in July 1990, after Iraq complained to OPEC claiming that Kuwait was stealing its oil from a field near the border by slant drilling of the Rumaila field.[34]

In August 1990, Iraqi forces invaded and annexed Kuwait. After a series of failed diplomatic negotiations, the United States led a coalition to remove the Iraqi forces from Kuwait, in what became known as the Gulf War. On 26 February 1991, the coalition succeeded in driving out the Iraqi forces. As they retreated, Iraqi forces carried out a scorched earth policy by setting oil wells on fire.[35] During the Iraqi occupation, more than 1,000 Kuwaiti civilians were killed.[36] In addition, more than 600 Kuwaitis went missing during Iraq's occupation,[37] approximately 375 remains were found in mass graves in Iraq.

In March 2003, Kuwait became the springboard for the US-led invasion of Iraq. Upon the death of the Emir Jaber, in January 2006, Saad Al-Sabah succeeded him but was removed nine days later by the Kuwaiti parliament due to his ailing health. Sabah Al-Sabah was sworn in as Emir. In 2011–2012, there were protests calling for reforms. The parliament was dissolved in December 2011 due to protests against the parliament. The prime minister stepped down following protests.

Kuwait is one of the world's biggest funders of Islamic terrorism, especially Al-Qaeda and ISIS.[7][38] According to the United States government, Kuwait turns a blind eye to terror funding.[39] In January 2014, the United States accused a Kuwaiti government minister of funding Al-Qaeda terrorism.[40][41] In June 2015, a suicide bombing took place at a Shia mosque. It was the largest terror attack in Kuwait's history.

Politics

Kuwait is a constitutional emirate with an autocratic political system.[42][43][44] The Emir is the head of state. The political system is divided between an elected parliament and appointed government.[45][46] The Constitution of Kuwait was promulgated in 1962.

Human rights in Kuwait has been the subject of criticism, particularly regarding migrant workers rights. Expatriates account for 70% of Kuwait's total population. The kafala system leaves migrant workers prone to exploitation. Human rights organizations have criticized Kuwait for failing to protect foreign workers from exploitation.

Foreign relations

Location of diplomatic missions of Kuwait:
  Kuwait
  Embassy

Foreign affairs relations of Kuwait is handled at the level of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The first foreign affairs department bureau was established in 1961. Kuwait became the 111th member state of the United Nations in May 1963. It is a long-standing member of the Arab League and Cooperation Council for the Arab States of the Gulf.

Kuwait is one of the world's biggest funders of Islamic terrorism, especially Al-Qaeda and ISIS.[7][38] According to the United States government, Kuwait turns a blind eye to terror funding.[39] The Kuwaiti government refuses to take action against the Revival of Islamic Heritage Society which was blacklisted by the United Nations for giving financial support to Al Qaeda.[40] In January 2014, the United States accused a Kuwaiti government minister of funding Al-Qaeda terrorism.[40][41]

Before the Gulf War, Kuwait was the only "pro-Soviet" state in the Gulf.[47] Kuwait acted as a conduit for the Soviets to the other Gulf states and Kuwait was used to demonstrate the benefits of a pro-Soviet stance.[47] Between 1961 and 1991, Kuwait had an uneasy relationship with the United States characterized by mistrust and hostility.[48] In July 1987, Kuwait refused to allow U.S. military bases in its territory.[49] As a result of the Gulf War, Kuwait's relations with the U.S. have improved significantly and currently hosts thousands of US military personnel and contractors within active U.S. facilities.

Law

Kuwait follows the "civil law system" modeled after the French legal system,[50][51][52] Kuwait's legal system is largely secular.[53][54][55] Sharia law governs only family law for Muslim residents,[54][56] non-Muslims in Kuwait have a secular family law. For the application of family law, there are three separate court sections: Sunni, Shia and non-Muslim.[57] According to the United Nations, Kuwait's legal system is a mix of British common law, French civil law, Egyptian civil law and Islamic law.[58]

The court system in Kuwait is secular.[59][60] Unlike other Gulf states, Kuwait does not have Sharia courts.[60] Sections of the civil court system administer family law.[60] Kuwait has the most secular commercial law in the Gulf.[61]

Military

The Military of Kuwait traces its original roots to the Kuwaiti cavalrymen and infantrymen that used to protect Kuwait and its wall since the early 1900s. These cavalrymen and infantrymen formed the defense and security forces in metropolitan areas; charged with protecting outposts outside the wall of Kuwait.

The Military of Kuwait consists of several joint defense forces. The governing bodies are the Kuwait Ministry of Defense, the Kuwait Ministry of Interior, the Kuwait National Guard and the Kuwait Fire Service Directorate. The Emir of Kuwait is the commander-in-chief of all defense forces.

Geography

Main article: Geography of Kuwait
Satellite image of Kuwait

Kuwait City is located on Kuwait Bay, a natural deep-water harbor. 90% of Kuwait's population live within the Kuwait Bay coast. The country is generally low lying, with the highest point being 306 m (1,004 ft) above sea-level.[1] It has nine islands, all of which, with the exception of Failaka Island, are uninhabited.[62] With an area of 860 km2 (330 sq mi), the Bubiyan is the largest island in Kuwait and is connected to the rest of the country by a 2,380 m (7,808 ft) long bridge.[63] Only 0.6% of the land area is considered arable[1] with sparse vegetation found along its 499-kilometre (310 mi) long coastline.[1]

Kuwait's Burgan field having a total capacity of approximately 70 billion barrels (1.1×1010 m3) of proven oil reserves. During the 1991 Kuwaiti oil fires, more than 500 oil lakes were created covering a combined surface area of about 35.7 km2 (13.8 sq mi).[64] The resulting soil contamination due to oil and soot accumulation had made eastern and south-eastern parts of Kuwait uninhabitable. Sand and oil residue had reduced large parts of the Kuwaiti desert to semi-asphalt surfaces.[65] The oil spills during the Gulf War also drastically affected Kuwait's marine resources.[66]

Climate

Main article: Climate of Kuwait

The spring season in March is warm with occasional thunderstorms. The frequent winds from the northwest are cold in winter and hot in summer. Southeasterly damp winds spring up between July and October; hot and dry south winds prevail in spring and early summer. The shamal, a northwesterly wind common during June and July, causes dramatic sandstorms.[67] The temperature in Kuwait during summer is above 25 °C (77 °F). The highest recorded temperature was 54.4 °C (129.9 °F) which is the highest temperature recorded in Asia.[68][69]

Governorates

Kuwait is divided into six governorates. The governorates are further subdivided into areas.

Economy

Main article: Economy of Kuwait
Al Hamra Tower is the tallest sculpted tower in the world.

Kuwait has a petroleum-based economy, petroleum and fertilizers are the main export products. The Kuwaiti dinar is the highest-valued currency unit in the world.[6] Petroleum accounts for nearly half of GDP and 94% of export revenues and government income.[1] The Kuwait Stock Exchange is the second-largest stock exchange in the Arab world.

Kuwait was the pioneer in the Middle East in diversifying its earnings away from oil exports. However the country has struggled to diversify its economy since the Gulf War. In recent years, the hostile relationship between the elected parliament and government has prevented the implementation of economic reforms.[70]

In the past five years, there has been a significant rise in entrepreneurship and small business start-ups in Kuwait.[71][72] The informal sector is also on the rise,[73] mainly due to the popularity of Instagram businesses.[74][75][76] Many Kuwaiti entrepreneurs are using the Instagram-based business model.[77]

International holdings

The Kuwait Investment Authority (KIA) is Kuwait's sovereign wealth fund specializing in foreign investment. The KIA is the world's oldest sovereign wealth fund. Since 1953, the Kuwaiti government has directed investments into Europe, United States and Asia Pacific. As of 2015, the holdings were valued at $592 billion in assets.[78]

Kuwait is the Arab world's largest foreign investor, with $8.4 billion in FDI outflows in 2013.[79] Kuwait consistently tops regional rankings in FDI outflows. In 2013, Kuwait almost tripled its foreign investments.[79] Over the last 10 years, Kuwait has doubled investments in the UK to more than $24 billion.[80][81] In 2014, Kuwait became the largest foreign investor in China's RMB market.[82]

Demographics

Kuwaiti youth celebrating Kuwait's independence and liberation, 2011

Kuwait's 2014 population was 4.1 million people, of which 1.2 million were Kuwaitis, 1.1 million are Arab, 1.4 million Asian expatriates, and 76,698 Africans.[83]

Ethnic groups

Expatriates account for 70% of Kuwait's total population. 60% of Kuwait's total population is Arab (including Arab expats).[1] Indians and Egyptians are the largest expat communities respectively.[84]

Religion

Main article: Religion in Kuwait
File:12306354.jpg
Mosque in Kuwait

Most of Kuwait's population is Muslim. Kuwait also has a large community of expatriate Christians (est. 450,000), Hindus (est. 600,000), Buddhists (est. 100,000), and Sikhs (est. 10,000).[85] The majority of Kuwait's citizen population is Muslim;[86][87] there are no official figures, but it is estimated that 60-70% are Sunni and 30%-40% are Shia.[88][89][90][91] Some other minor Muslim sects do exist in Kuwait's society, but in very small or rare numbers. Kuwait has a native Christian community, there are between 259-400 Christian Kuwaiti citizens.[92] Kuwait is the only GCC country besides Bahrain to have a local Christian population who hold citizenship. There is also a small number of Bahá'í Kuwaiti citizens,[85][93] it is likely that 18 Kuwaiti citizens follow the Bahá'í religion.[86][note 1]

Languages

Kuwait's official language is Modern Standard Arabic. Kuwaiti Arabic is Kuwait's colloquial dialect. Kuwaiti Sign Language is used by the deaf community. English is widely understood and often used as a business language.

Culture

Main article: Culture of Kuwait
Kuwait Towers, the country's most famous landmark.

Within the Gulf Arab states, the culture of Kuwait is the closest to the culture of Bahrain; this is evident in the close association between the two states in terms of accents, food, and clothes, in addition to the similar degrees of openness in the two societies.[94]

Theatre

Kuwait is known for its home-grown tradition of theatre.[95] Kuwait is the only country in the Gulf with a theatrical tradition.[96] The theatrical movement in Kuwait constitutes a major part of the country's cultural life.[97] Theatrical activities in Kuwait began in the 1920s when the first spoken dramas were released.[98] Theatre activities are still popular today.[97]

Soap operas

Kuwaiti soap operas (المسلسلات الكويتية) are among the most-watched soap operas in the Arab world.[99] Although usually performed in the Kuwaiti dialect, they have been shown with success as far away as Tunisia.[100]

Arts

Kuwait has the oldest modern arts movement in the Arabian Peninsula.[101] Beginning in 1936, Kuwait was the first Gulf country to grant scholarships in the arts.[101] The Kuwaiti artist Mojeb al-Dousari was the earliest recognized visual artist in the Gulf region.[102] He is regarded as the founder of portrait art in the region.[103] In 1943, al-Dousari launched Kuwait's first art gallery.

Kuwait is home to more than 20 art galleries. The Sultan Gallery was the first art gallery in the Gulf region.[104][105] Khalifa Al-Qattan was the first Kuwaiti artist to hold a solo artist exhibition in Kuwait. He founded a new art theory in the early 1960s known as "circulism".[106][107]

Literature

Kuwait was the pioneer of literary movement in the region. In 1958, Al Arabi magazine was first published, the magazine went on to become the most popular magazine in the Arab world.[108] In the 1970s, writers moved to Kuwait where they enjoyed greater freedom of expression than elsewhere in the Arab world.[109]

See also

Notes

  1. 2014 Census shows only three religion categories: "Muslim", "Christian" and "Other". Reasonably assuming majority of "Other" Kuwaiti citizens is Bahá'í.

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Further reading

External links