Nejoud Al-Yagout

There is a plan in place. It’s no secret. The plan is to reduce the number of expats by a significant amount. In English, the plan is called Kuwaitization. In a country where the vast majority of inhabitants are expatriates, in a country where locals rely on the expertise of foreigners, in a country where humanitarianism is waning year after year, the fast-track to Kuwaitization is not to renew the contracts of foreign employees or to make their lives miserable so that they leave of their own accord (the latter was a ploy engaged in the past to encourage a local to resign, since it was virtually impossible to fire a Kuwaiti).

During the pandemic, the mass exodus of expatriates is hard to ignore. Many people who were born and raised here are asking themselves whether it is worth it to stay in a country that, frankly, does not want them here (or only wants them because locals cannot fill the required spaces). It was reported that nurses at Mubarak Hospital were in tears a couple of weeks ago when they were told it was their last day at work. Their contracts at the MoH had purportedly ended on the given day. How can you tell frontline workers whose lives are devoted to caring for our sick that it is their last day at work? Their salaries are already insufficient, and many of them get paid much less than other nurses who work the same amount of time as them. In a country where foreigners are already voiceless and the threat of deportation looms on many an expatriate’s head, what justification do we have for such disregard? How can we treat anyone in this manner and sleep easy at night?

Kuwait has been ranked as the worst country for expatriates seven times in eight years. Isn’t that enough of an indicator that we are doing something seriously wrong? Where are the movers and shakers in our country? Why is it that the parliamentarians who are most popular are the ones who promise to raise the salaries of Kuwaitis and demand ministers to fulfill the rights of locals? What is the point of rights if they are not given to all inhabitants of a country? It’s called human rights, not Kuwaiti rights. This nationalization, this sense of privilege is dangerous. Being a nationalist entails a degree of arrogance, a sense of us vs them-which not only causes divisiveness but delusion.

In his essay ‘Notes on Nationalism’, George Orwell writes: “The nationalist not only does not disapprove of atrocities committed by his own side, but he has a remarkable capacity for not even hearing about them.” We see this denial everywhere. And the couple of human rights accounts on social media that are not in denial are either inactive or not able to pass legislation. What more can they say or do if all their appeals fall on deaf ears?

We have so many nationalists in power, that to even speak out against nationalism is considered a betrayal. But the more we love our country, the greater our duty to ensure that it moves in the direction of inclusivity and equality rather than on a path of polarization and exclusivity. When it comes to ethics, it is better to speak out than to permit injustices. As Desmond Tutu told us: “If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.”

As such, let us implore each other to remember we are not the color of our passports. History has even shown that borders are fluid. What then? Will we still cling on to our nationality? Or will it be too late?

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