By Ahmad Jabr
KUWAIT: The Appeals Court overruled a criminal court ruling which had sentenced the suspect in the killing of Kuwaiti citizen Farah Akbar to death, and sentenced him to life in prison instead. The suspect’s defense denied premeditated murder intent in the case that rocked the Kuwaiti society. The suspect had pled not guilty to charges of kidnap and murder after he was accused of abducting the victim in Sabah Al-Salem and stabbing her to death. Akbar’s family said in a statement that they plan to challenge the ruling and demand capital punishment against the suspect.
The Appeals Court ruling reignited debate about women’s rights in Kuwait and their protection from abuse.
Kuwaiti writer Muna Al-Shammari said the ruling proves that “the social system is stronger than law, that women’s lives are cheap, their rights can be violated and that family and honor are what determines women’s fate.” Shammari also mentioned an incident in which a high school student was reportedly physically assaulted by her father and uncle outside her school in Kuwait as another example that proves her point.
The criminal court in July 2021 sentenced the suspect to death after convicting him of the kidnap and murder of Farah Hamzah Akbar, a mother of two. The brutal killing of Akbar, 32, whose body was left outside a hospital on April 20, 2021 after she was snatched in broad daylight, sparked protests and calls for justice.
The man, who had persisted in stalking Akbar despite several complaints to authorities, dragged her from a car during the holy month of Ramadan, according to investigations in the case. Akbar had previously filed two harassment complaints against the man who had proposed to her although she was already married. He had been arrested but was released on bail. The interior ministry said at the time of the murder that Akbar had been stabbed in the chest.
The attacker was arrested shortly afterwards and confessed to the crime, sparking calls for his execution. After the killing, some 200 people, including men, rallied to mourn the victim and demand tougher penalties for violence against women. Kuwaiti women are pushing the boundaries of their society, considered one of the most open in the Gulf. A law against harassment exists but discussions about gender-based violence remain taboo.
“Women in Kuwait demand protection from harassment, abuse and murder by providing them with shelters and laws that protect them,” Lulwa Saleh Al-Mulla, head of the Kuwaiti Women’s Cultural and Social Society, said following the original verdict. “Farah’s (killing) was the straw that broke the camel’s back. Enough is enough.”