In 1991, President Bush announced the start of military operations to free Kuwait from the ravages of dictatorship after the invasion of Iraqi forces. He promised to restore Kuwait and its people to freedom. In the years following the liberation however Kuwait’s government has repeatedly shown that real freedom was confined to its ruling family and not average Kuwaitis. The sentencing in absentia of Rana Jassem al-Saadun is only the latest example. The female rights activist was given three years in jail for simply repeating parts of a speech by an opposition leader that was critical of Emir Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Sabah, Kuwait’s authoritarian leader.
Musallam al-Barrak, an outspoken former member of the Kuwaiti parliament, appears to have his answer. Al-Barrak appealed to Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Sabah (right) in a 2012 speech not to impose “autocratic rule.” He was later arrested and has now been sentenced to five years in jail.