Here There and Everywhere

Expat wanderer

Kuwait Detains Teacher

I received the following e-mail this morning; it is being forwarded throughout the Western communities. If this continues, it will make recruiting teachers for Kuwait much more difficult. And what does a child learn, when his parent exacts revenge for a mild – and justified – discipline? This was not a physical act of harm to the child, only an in-school suspension – for fighting!

It is shameful that this is happening, it is an outrage that the embassy is not outraged. I am sure they are doing their best to achieve an incremental diplomatic solution, and the injustice of it is palpable.

I have deleted names because I don’t want any trouble . . . I even considered not publishing it at all. I publish it because people read my blog and want to come to Kuwait to work – and it would not be even-handed not to reveal some of the risks involved. This woman was doing her job, and has become the focus of a vengeful, angry parent. Not good!

International Schools Review received this letter on June 23, 2007
from an international educator being detained in Kuwait. If you can
help her, or know of someone who can, please act immediately.
________________________________

FROM: Al-Bayan Bilingual School Middle School
Deputy Principal, Kuwait

TO: Whom It May Concern

DATE: June 21, 2007

RE: Detained in Kuwait/In Fear for My Safety

I am a Middle School Vice-Principal at Al-Bayan Bilingual School in
Kuwait. I have been employed in Kuwait for 6 years at the same
school.

One of my primary responsibilities is student discipline. On March 8,
2006, three boys in grade 5 were suspended for fighting. I
interviewed the boys, met with my principal and followed normal procedure. There
is no stigma here regarding suspension. Students spend the day in the
office where they study, are visited by teachers, and are taken to
the canteen, etc. It’s a normal consequence for fighting; all students
are aware of this and the procedure is clearly defined in our Parent
Handbook.

In the afternoon of March 8th, I received a phone call from one of
the boys’ fathers, (name deleted) who is a powerful man in Kuwait. He
called to inform me that this situation was “personal,” that he is
“friends with the emir” and that he planned to “destroy” me. This
conversation, which last about 9 minutes, was littered with
profanities and threats.

On March 11, 2006, the parents met with me, my principal and our
director, (name deleted), to discuss the suspension. The father
requested that if there was an issue involving his child that I would
call him immediately.

On April 27, 2006, I was requested to write a synopsis of events and
to visit the Ministry of Education to answer questions regarding the
suspension, describe the room in which the boys spent the school day
and provide a copy of our handbook.

In June 2006, the father transferred his children to a different
private school in Kuwait. Also, we received notification from the
Ministry of Education that in-school suspensions were no longer to be
applied; instead, parents must be contacted to take their children
home.

In February 2007, I learned that a case had been filed against me at
the Jabriya Police Department in Kuwait; the charge was “illegal
detainment” of his son on March 8, 2006. I answered questions in my
director’s presence and the Consul from the US Embassy, (name deleted). My lawyer was also present. The police did not suggest that
there was any reason for me to be concerned as all of the questions
were answered to the apparent satisfaction.

On June 13, 2007, I was at the Kuwait International Airport intending
to fly to Bahrain. I was stopped at immigration where I was informed
that there was a case against me, pending further investigation and
that a travel ban had been placed on me. I had not been informed. My
lawyer had not been informed. This travel ban was placed upon me
15 months after the boy was suspended. The parent said that he would
make this personal and this seems to be what he is intent upon doing.

On Saturday, June 16, 2007, I visited the American Embassy where I
met with the Vice Consul, (name deleted), who informed me that he
sympathized but could do nothing to lift the travel ban. He suggested
that I get an older Kuwaiti man to appeal to Mr. M. I was told
on Wednesday that my file would be transferred to another agency for
review so the ban could be lifted. Five working days later, the
whereabouts of my file are uncertain. I have been told that my file
is in 2 different places; this seems to be a delay tactic. Why? Because
I angered an influential Kuwaiti national who is at the top of the
social register both locally and at the US Embassy?

On I visited the office of a police inspector named (name deleted,)
whose office is in Salmiya. He is a police official who was to
evaluate my file and determine if I could leave or not. He stated
that he didn’t have my file. I visited him on June 17th and 18th. On June
18th, not five minutes after I left his office with my director, the
Business Officer of my school and another school representative, I
called Mr. C, Vice-Consul at the US Embassy to gain his
insight into the situation and to see if any progress had been made
to help me leave. He was completely aware of my visit to Mr. (name deleted)
office and instructed that I not return as it “interfered.”

Several Kuwaiti families are aware of my situation but they are not
in a position to help or they don’t want to get involved. They have ALL
said that I should go to my embassy because my embassy can help me.
The fact that the embassy can’t seems shocking to everyone. Many
people also question why this accusation from Mr. M is placed
solely on me – not the school, not the principal, not the director of
school. I feel that I am being used as an example because I am a
single, American woman and he wants to show others that he can do
what he said which is to “destroy” me.

Yesterday, June 20, 2007, I received a paper from Mr. (name deleted)
office in Salmiya which lifted the travel ban. This waiver had been
granted by the Kuwait Minister of the Interior. Not long after the
Minister released me, he reversed his decision at the request of the
(name deleted) family or his representatives. I went to the airport last
night, only to learn that I couldn’t leave.

I am in fear for my safety. If the Embassy can’t help me, then who
can? I contacted the FBI in Riyad, Saudi Arabia yesterday and talked
to (name deleted) who couldn’t give me his last name. He was non-committal
but did suggest that he thought the embassy should be able to get me out.

(name deleted) has informed me that they are “working on it.” That
seems a little vague and I am not sure if the US Embassy completely
realizes the level of danger that I feel that I am in. Why does Mr.
M want me in Kuwait during the summer when no one from my
school will be in country to offer their support? To make me feel
vulnerable?

He is well-connect and his friends are supporting his mission to
damage me in any way that he can. What’s next?

I do not feel safe. I am not safe. I need someone from the US to
acknowledge the urgency of my situation and coordinate my release. I
committed no crime. I am simply the victim of “wasta” which roughly
translates into “influence/pressure” at a high level.

For the inside word on International Schools
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This message was sent from International Schools Review

June 26, 2007 Posted by | Bureaucracy, Communication, Community, Cross Cultural, Cultural, ExPat Life, Family Issues, Kuwait, Living Conditions, News, Social Issues | 45 Comments

   

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