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
InternationalSchoolsReview.com

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

45 Comments »

  1. That poor woman:O She has done nothing wrong and I can’t even begin to imagine what she must be going through right now! How dare he do this to her! How exactly is in-school suspension illegal detainment?:/ My God I can’t even begin to imagine what that man would do if his child was expelled! How on earth is his child going to learn that when you do something wrong, there are consequences (which the parents were aware of!)?

    I can understand how those Kuwaiti families felt when they heard about her situation. Anyone with an ounce of compassion would want to help but, to be honest, I’m not really sure what I, personally, can do to help. I’ll keep her in my prayers and, if you don’t mind, I’ll copy and paste your post and email it to my friends so that they become aware of her situation. Please keep us updated if you can.

    Comment by dandoon | June 26, 2007 | Reply

  2. i actually read about it in today’s paper in Arab Times. The article said that she approached the American embassy telling them she fears for her safety; the embassy replied telling her “it can not comment as a matter of policy due to privacy concerns”.

    Comment by Fonzy | June 26, 2007 | Reply

  3. Your story is meaningless if you don’t publish the names.

    Comment by Anonymous Coward | June 26, 2007 | Reply

  4. that is absolutely appalling! but not new, travel bans have been imposed on people for less if you can believe that.

    xpatr, if you happen to know her or know how to get in touch with her then she should know this:

    if the kuwaiti is indeed influential then theres little anyone can do for her as no one in a lower station will lift a finger for fear of retribution. kuwait is an heirarchical society and everyone has their place. so if anything she should look for wasta as high up as possible.

    this can take absolutely ages and i’m pretty sure by now she’s had her fill of kuwait. the best thing she can do is look for a way out of the country instead of being trapped here for an indeterminate amount of time. sneak out or get a fake passport whatever.

    it really would not be worth the effort to stay and take a stand on principle against someone with no principles.

    if she must make a stand tho, she could try taking her story to the papers and try to go the “shaming” route. “saving face” is such a big part of society here that it might just work, especially if the guys is big and made to look petty.

    i’ll pop this on my blog as well.

    Comment by sknkwrkz | June 26, 2007 | Reply

  5. That’s quite sad, even when the embassy can’t even do anything about it!

    Comment by N. | June 26, 2007 | Reply

  6. Oh, I read about this yesterday – how horrifying. To make certain it wasn’t a spoof, I googled her name – she’s a real person, BA in English lit, graduate of a private high school, and at least at one point in time proud and excited to be working at al-Bayan.

    What a sick man, to put his energies toward harming an innocent woman rather than into better parenting. I hope her story is widely publicized, and I hope that he is deeply, deeply shamed.

    Comment by adiamondinsunlight | June 26, 2007 | Reply

  7. […] Kuwait detains teacher. Posted by sknkwrkz under Uncategorized  i read about this on Intlxpatr’s blog and i thought i would put this up here as […]

    Pingback by Kuwait detains teacher. « it’s gone a lil wonky | June 26, 2007 | Reply

  8. Dandoon – I believe in the POWER of prayer, and in the face of the impossible, prayer is a powerful weapon in softening hearts and helping people see things from another point of view. Your prayers are welcome!

    And yes, it’s a sad and horrifying story of a woman who was just doing her job – and horrifying that the child is seeing this happen, and learning that fighting in school has no consequences.

    Comment by intlxpatr | June 26, 2007 | Reply

  9. Fonz – I am heartened to learn that the paper printed this story, thanks for the info.

    Comment by intlxpatr | June 26, 2007 | Reply

  10. Little Diamond – where did you read it yesterday? You have the most amazing sources!

    Comment by intlxpatr | June 26, 2007 | Reply

  11. Anonymous Coward – My own courage only goes so far. It’s not like I think we are truly anonymous, and that no one can figure out who we are with a minimum of technological expertise. I took out the names because I don’t want bad consequences, either. Call me coward; I made a judgement call. And I am guessing you can find the names with a swift Google search.

    Comment by intlxpatr | June 26, 2007 | Reply

  12. Skunk – thanks for passing it along. It may be the only leverage any of us have, making the shameful behavior public knowledge.

    Comment by intlxpatr | June 26, 2007 | Reply

  13. Her situation is unfortunate, however i’m surprised Mr. Al Marzouk didn’t hold the school accountable? Anyhow, Her case is in the higher courts now and not in the ministry of Interior. Her crime is not a petty crime, illegal detainment is kidnapping therefore the ministry of Interior had to stop ban her from travelling worried that she’d escape court proceedings. This is by no means right, however, now that it’s in the high courts, not even the interior ministry or any wasta would work. I offered my help to Ms. Phillips to countersue but she’s not a trouble maker like myself. Any expat in need of help please contact us at Social Work Society 5375031

    Comment by sws | June 26, 2007 | Reply

  14. WTF?!?! that’s so unfair! what a bastard!
    he can’t raise his own son properly and teach him not to fight?
    he doesn’t know how to read the Handbook?
    he doesn’t like the fact that the students who fight actually get the same education as the people who don’t?
    his dumbass son was FIGHTING.. in a SCHOOL.. the school should just suspend them and kick them out for a day or two since treating the students respectfully and keeping them in school so they can catch up on their education seems to be pissing off the parents so much!
    as a teacher, i find his behaviour very offensive and unnessecary, he has no right to do that to a teacher, local or expatriot, especially since she was doing her job!

    Comment by Swair | June 26, 2007 | Reply

  15. Allah ya tik alafia (or however it is spelled, that’s the way it sounds to me, SWS) and for my non-Arabic speaking friends, it means God bless the work of your hands.

    Swair – it isn’t just Kuwait where powerful people rescue their children from their mistakes. Guilty people go free in the US every day – guilty RICH powerful people. Their children usually grow up to be very weak people.

    Comment by intlxpatr | June 26, 2007 | Reply

  16. Hello,
    I am a member of ISR, and I found this warning posted by them on their site. The names were mentioned, and I have not deleted them, as they want this publicized:

    Work/Travel Advisory for Kuwait and Kuwaiti Schools

    In response to the situation in Kuwait involving Katherine Phillips, Middle School Deputy Principal, Al-Bayan School, ISR is posting a travel/work advisory for Kuwait.

    We encourage all teachers/administrators to contact their Kuwaiti Schools, calling for an immediate resolution of Katherine Phillips’ situation, one that will lift her travel ban and allow her to return home to her family.

    We further encourage all teachers/administrators in Kuwaiti Schools to consider not returning to Kuwait or honoring their contracts in Kuwait until this situation has been resolved.

    Please see the following letter for details of Katherine’s situation. Something is very wrong when a wealthy parent can have a teacher detained/arrested because they simply don’t like the fact their middle-school-age child was disciplined for hitting another student.

    Following Katherine’s letter we have posted an additional letter we received from a teacher verifying that the arrest and detention of American teachers in Kuwait is not uncommon.

    Comment by Carly | June 26, 2007 | Reply

  17. What a b@stard! It’s not her fault and his spoiled little brat should have been beaten up for his father’s act.

    I’m really sorry to hear about her story and really hope she gets through it.

    Comment by macaholiq8 | June 27, 2007 | Reply

  18. how do u know she is telling the trueth ??

    Comment by bosale7 | June 27, 2007 | Reply

  19. As a teacher, you know how important discipline is to maintaining an atmosphere where people can learn, Mac.

    Bosale7 – did you read in the note where she was accompanied by her principal, etc.? She has the truth backing her up. The incident was simple – a kid was put in in-school detention for fighting. The dad’s reaction is vengeful and wrathful, and in the long run, we who do not develop self-discipline lead chaotic lives. As I said earlier, this doesn’t just happen in Kuwait. In all societies, parents do this, but rarely do they say “I will destroy you” for a very mild act of discipline.

    Comment by intlxpatr | June 27, 2007 | Reply

  20. any news on the situation?

    Comment by bbq8 | June 27, 2007 | Reply

  21. still didnt answered me : how do u know she and her boss are telling the truth ?

    all u said and reviewd is her side of the story !

    belive me if she telling the truth the us embassy will not wait for one minute without helping her ….do i have to remind u of what the us ebmassy is capable of in kuwait ?
    us emabssy has a good history of smugling american citizens out of kuwait when ever they have problem with the law ..
    so with all do respect she is hiding the real side of the story

    Comment by bosale7 | June 27, 2007 | Reply

  22. bosale7 obviously doesnt know diplomats very well. while the embassies here do smuggle people out, its only as a last resort, after exhausting every other diplomatic avenue first.

    and while i’m not saying that every person ever smuggled out by any embassy was innocent, the simple fact that so many have been smuggled out shows that theres an unhealthy amount of stupid travel bans being imposed for ridiculous reasons, and that due process doesnt work here,… unless you have more wasta than the the other guy.

    Comment by sknkwrkz | June 27, 2007 | Reply

  23. bbq8 – I haven’t heard anything new. The papers seem to be covering it, which is a good thing, Helps make it possible for the right thing can happen.

    bosale7 – she has her school, and the international school organization backing up her story. No one, not even the father, is arguing the facts. The International Schools have posted an advisory warning, telling potential teachers not to come to Kuwait until this is resolved.

    So with all due respect, if you know the other side of the story, please tell us.

    Comment by intlxpatr | June 27, 2007 | Reply

  24. Smuggling people out, as Skunk says, happens, but diplomats want to avoid it, as it is disrespectful to the law of the country. This woman didn’t break the law, however. She claims to be the focus of a personal vendetta.

    Comment by intlxpatr | June 27, 2007 | Reply

  25. i dont know any part of the story other than u puplished thats why am telling u we should look more deep in it , its bright clear u and ur commenters have problem with the kuwaiti law and not looking at it as a law everyone should follow and respect , and one more thing dear … being backed up by a friends or work partners will not make ur story solid enogh … from ur side of the story the father went to ministry and the police which means he went to the official way …while ur teacher went only to the net the pepole to support …if she is really that victime she should go the court and make her case there not on net .

    every story have two sides …to be fair look at them both then critisize

    tnx

    Comment by bosale7 | June 27, 2007 | Reply

  26. Bosale7, I’m a law and order kind a gal. If a law is broken, the you face the consequences. Do you believe In-school detention is kidnapping?

    I think we would all be very interested to hear the parent’s point of view. The situation as reported above is the story in all the newspapers and on all the websites.

    As Carly says, the international school review takes it so seriously they are advising Western teachers not to return to Kuwait until this is resolved.

    Comment by intlxpatr | June 27, 2007 | Reply

  27. whoohoo its on the arab times today! front page as well!

    looks like its gonna be like any other frivolous lawsuit in this country, guilty until proven innocent…. if and when it does get to court.

    travel bans have been known to last YEARS especially when its a personal vendetta by someone influential,… all they have to do is delay,delay,delay proceedings,… which is the reason why people are eventually smuggled out.

    she ought to sue him for libel, which would probably be a waste of time, which i’m sure everyone will agree on. what a loverly system 😀

    Comment by sknkwrkz | June 28, 2007 | Reply

  28. We all heard her side of the story, there has to be something missing here. I have lived and worked in Kuwait, if you respect the law (where ever you are) you won’t be in trouble. Every person commented as (poor woman) did you ever ask what was the parent side of the story? Every one knows the Amir (ruler) of Kuwait, does that mean every one is powerful? most Kuwaiti’s have money and are wealthy ( now they represent 10% of the whole population, unlike 15 years ago when wealthy families out numbered poor or middle class families) No travel ban can take effect unless the person or/ and her lawyer are present and sign documents (i asked influential judges in Kuwait) & I know a friend who is Kuwaiti and had a travel ban on him when he was involved in a legal problem with his brother in law ( he is wealthy, has more money than his brother in law and is influential as well) If you say the country is corrupted, then why couldn’t this wealthy Kuwaiti remove the travel ban?
    Another point, if such threats were affecting her safety, she was able to leave a year earlier because travel ban takes 6 to 18 months in order to be approved and show in the immigration system. How come the FBI person she contacted in Riyadh was not able to help her? a lot of unsolved questions. Didn’t anyone of the readers think of raising such questions? Why do we act spontaneously without taking 30 minutes at least to think it over? Another important point: the Al-bayan School is owned by a very and I mean a very influential family, is it possible they were not able to help? if she was innocent? The owning family can easily out number the parent family in both number of people as well as wealth.

    Comment by danielle | June 28, 2007 | Reply

  29. I agree with Danielle. I’m a British woman with four kids and I lived in Kuwait for 9 years. I was very up on the gossip in schools and I didn’t hear of any such problems. I want to hear Bayan school’s side of the issue.

    Also, I’m returning to Kuwait in September. Publishing the kind of statements and letters I see here may prevent teachers coming to Kuwait to teach my children. As a parent if I knew any teacher was suffering I would get togther a group to do something about it.

    Comment by Alana | June 28, 2007 | Reply

  30. Actually, a travel ban can show up within a few days on Kuwait’s computer system. I know that for absolute sure. That’s how my teacher husband missed his summer holidays last year.

    Comment by Mollie | June 28, 2007 | Reply

  31. I’d encourage anyone who believes in Carly’s opinions to look at her website before they put any absolute faith in her.

    Comment by Lisa | June 28, 2007 | Reply

  32. Thank you for your thoughtful comments, Danielle. You ask a lot of good questions. The case has aroused a lot of interest, and is about to go international from what I understand. Maybe we will be able to get a clearer view of the facts then.

    Comment by intlxpatr | June 28, 2007 | Reply

  33. Alana/Mollie/Lisa – Do you think it doesn’t show up when the same person posts comments under three different names? Your IP shows on your comment, and indicates you are the same person commenting under different names. Why is that?

    I looked at Carly’s website. She and I are different religions, but we have similar beliefs in may ways. She’s a welcome visitor and commenter here.

    Comment by intlxpatr | June 28, 2007 | Reply

  34. I taught with Katherine for the past 3 years and I can vouch for her integrity and honesty. It has been a pleasure and a privilege to work for her. She treats students with respect and unquestionable fairness. This is not the first confrontation this parent has had with our school.I have left Kuwait to return to the US and retirement after 35 years of teaching and I have worked for a lot of administrators. She is one of the best.

    Comment by icook | June 28, 2007 | Reply

  35. Thank you icook, for your your endorsement and your loyalty to Katherine. From reading the different reactions in the different blogs, I think we may have a cross-cultural thing going here – where we consider being isolated in a detention room a normal and mild punishment – you know, as opposed to hitting or beating a child, or whacking him/her with a paddle like they did in the old days – whereas perhaps detention or isolation here is considered horrifying in a way we can’t imagine.

    but I have the feeling it is a vanity issue, one of those “how dare you?” things. It’s not just Kuwait where these things happen, it’s world wide. Sometimes it’s easier to blame than to bear the shame.

    Comment by intlxpatr | June 29, 2007 | Reply

  36. Lisa’s comment is way out of line. i quite enjoy carly’s blog, and she’s always welcome at mine too, even tho i’m a godless heathen 😀

    xpat, Cixousian Panic has been checking out the other side of the story, and altho she hasnt blogged about it yet she did leave quite a lengthy comment on my blog which is very interesting.

    according to the other side, the school’s definition of suspension and detention is pretty different from what i originally thought it was.

    apparently an inschool suspension involves locking a kid in a class for the day, with teachers checking in on them every now and again. which i find really bizarre. and the locking bit is just wrong.

    whatever the case may be the dad should have taken issue with the school itself, and a travel ban is a pretty personal approach to take.

    Comment by sknkwrkz | June 29, 2007 | Reply

  37. Thanks, Skunk. I am glad the newspapers have picked this up – honestly, all I am seeing on all the blogs is pure speculation. But yes, it is hard to understand why, if it is a policy issue, the parent would go after the assistant principal rather than the school.

    Comment by intlxpatr | June 30, 2007 | Reply

  38. In-school suspension at this school does not involve locking students in classrooms. The in-school suspension room is between Katherine’s office and the secretary’s office. There are three doors (not locked or even closed) leading into this room, a window into the asst. principal’s office and an entire wall of windows to the outside. It is by no means a dismal or secluded area. I’m really worried about all the misinformation floating around.

    Comment by icook | July 1, 2007 | Reply

  39. Thank you, icook. I think there are a lot of people who thing her story is suspicious – and that maybe there was some harm to the boy. I suspect the problem will resolve quietly, and soon, if the embassy is truly seeking to help.

    Comment by intlxpatr | July 2, 2007 | Reply

  40. cheers for clarifying the whole “locked or not” thing icook,… just goes to show the extent of the rumors floating about.

    Comment by sknkwrkz | July 2, 2007 | Reply

  41. Of course it’s a vanity issue! There’s no doubt about it. Mr Marzouk is a disgrace

    Comment by mischief | July 23, 2007 | Reply

  42. […] complain, salaries are late, conditions worsen and the employee is STUCK. Worst case, you have a travel ban placed against you and you can’t even get out of […]

    Pingback by Requiring New Contracts « Here There and Everywhere | March 13, 2009 | Reply

  43. I wonder what became of this teacher after she went back to the states ??? Did she have another problem with the Law .

    Comment by daggero | March 13, 2009 | Reply

  44. Daggero, the only “problem with the law” she had in Kuwait was disciplining a student whose father took offense and had the power to make her suffer for it. The punishment was not tortuous – he was placed in a room by himself. The father objected to his son being disciplined, and wanted to teach the teacher a lesson.

    Comment by intlxpatr | March 13, 2009 | Reply

  45. […] Go here to see the original: Kuwait Detains Teacher « Here There and Everywhere […]

    Pingback by Kuwait Detains Teacher « Here There and Everywhere | Kuwait today | June 2, 2009 | Reply


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