Here There and Everywhere

Expat wanderer

Warden Message

If this was a warden message, I didn’t get it. I get most of them. I found this in today’s Arab Times:

Terrorists may target Americans
Following is the full text of the Kuwait 2008 Crime & Safety Report released by the US State Department in March, 2008

Overall Crime and Safety Situation

The Department of State rates Kuwait as low threat for crime. The incidence of crime in Kuwait City remains low. The Government of Kuwait (GOK) maintains a high police profile, with large numbers of uniformed and plainclothes officers on the streets. Each district and governate has police stations operating under the direction of the Ministry of Interior (MOI) Directorate of Public Safety. Street crime does occur and incidents have been reported to the embassy’s Regional Security Office (RSO) recently that required monitoring and security notice dissemination.
Of particular concern are an alarming number of crimes involving individuals impersonating police officers and then assaulting victims, who are primarily third-country nationals (TCNs) and more susceptible to intimidation. The evolving modus operandi (MO) involves a male in plain clothes and an unmarked vehicle stopping a TCN, whether on foot or in a vehicle, asking for his ID, then demanding the person get into the impostor’s vehicle without any explanation of his offense or their destination. The TCN is then driven to a deserted area and assaulted.

The British Embassy released a Warden Notice about an assault that took place in February 2007 that did not involve a British national, but occurred in the Manghaf neighborhood where a large number of British citizens reside. In this case, a TCN was taken in broad daylight from a public area by a police impostor and assaulted, employing the aforementioned MO. A second Warden Notice from the British Embassy in March detailed an incident occurring behind the US Embassy Kuwait, at a shopping center in Mishref, where two young men believed to be local nationals forced a British male teenager into their vehicle late one evening and made sexual advances toward him. The victim escaped by throwing himself from the moving vehicle, where a passing Kuwaiti military vehicle offered assistance and returned him home safely. Based on a long-standing relationship of mutual cooperation and information-sharing, the Regional Security Office (RSO) at US Embassy Kuwait distributed security notices based on the British reports advising staff of these specific instances and included personal security guidance for all employees and their family members.

Violent crime is primarily confined within the TCN community, which comprises the majority of the manual labor force in Kuwait – approximately two-thirds of Kuwait’s residents. It is probable that a high percentage of crimes in the TCN community go unreported. The threat of immediate deportation looms large for many of these guest workers who generally prefer maintaining a low profile so as to avoid unwanted attention from the GOK.
Although several districts within Kuwait City are known to have higher incidences of crime, only one area (Jahra) remains generally off-limits to official embassy personnel. One factor contributing to the high rate of crime in Jahra is the inability of the police to enforce laws in areas where tribal customs take precedence. Known offenders regularly intimidate foreign guest workers, including workers employed by US companies and US military bases, by damaging vehicles, starting fires in trash cans and harassing them while they enter and exit their residences.

Harassment is not due to any affiliation to the United States or US military efforts; instead, it is generally due to criminalsbelieving they can act with impunity. Young Bedouin men who comprise the majority of these gangs are subject to their tribal mores first, but the tribal structure has proven ineffective in controlling these individuals which hinders the efforts of police to crack down on their illicit activities.
Residential crime remains low. There have been no reported break-ins at any official embassy residences within the past year, nor have any vehicles been stolen. A domestic employee of an embassy officer had her purse stolen from an individual on a motorbike outside of the officer’s residence. The perpetrator was later captured by police in the same neighborhood days after the attack. It is not uncommon for embassy staff and dependents to report suspicious persons in their neighborhoods to the RSO, but the majority of these instances have been resolved without any criminal or other hostile intent discovered.

There are no reports of petty thefts against the official American community in any of the popular outdoor markets or shopping malls frequented by tourists and Westerners living in Kuwait. However, the potential for such crime does exist. Individuals should remain aware of their surroundings at all time and assume that no venue is safe from crime. Additionally, vehicle break-ins, although rare, do occur if valuables are left in plain view. Visiting Americans are urged to take the same security precautions in Kuwait that they would practice in the United States. Hotel room doors should be locked and valuables should be stored in hotel safes when available. Visitors should instruct the hotel management not to divulge their room numbers over the telephone to any callers, but only to connect them to their room or to take a message.

Incidents of harassment and road rage, although infrequent, do occur and appear to be on the rise. Females have reported being occasionally accosted or harassed by Arab or South Asian males, particularly while driving alone in the morning or nighttime hours. In an incident involving an Embassy spouse in the fall of 2007, a local male harassed the spouse in a local shopping center, which prompted a security notice by the RSO and a Warden message by the Consular Affairs Section. Women who are the victim of harassment should immediately seek a public area and notify either store management or security personnel. Women should not travel home alone.
Male drivers using their personal vehicles forcefully to stop a female driver or attempting to gain the female’s attention for socializing purposes have been reported. Often this action is meant only to acquire a telephone number or arrange a date. However, reports of males impersonating police or military officers and utilizing his authority to command compliance from unsuspecting females have been increasing. Determining who is a legitimate police officer and who is an impostor is troublesome. In the reports received by the RSO, the individual initiating the contact was not wearing a uniform and was not driving in a clearly marked official GOK police or military vehicle.

Kuwaiti police have the authority to make traffic stops while in civilian clothes and driving in their personal vehicles but must identify themselves with their police ID, which has both Arabic and English writing on it. To ensure that the stopping officer is a legitimate police officer, individuals should remain in their own vehicles with the doors locked, lowering the window only enough to receive the person’s police identification. While checking the bona fides as best as possible, we advise staff to use their mobile phone to alert someone of their situation and if at all possible travel to their location. Tell the person you will agree only to follow him to a police station, and specify which one, keeping your mobile phone open so the person you called can hear the destination.

Lastly, relay the license plate number for the person’s vehicle to your colleague on the phone if at all possible. While Kuwait is in many ways a tolerant country, allowing women to drive, vote, and run for public office, Kuwait is still an Islamic country where conservative customs and dress are the norm. Potential harassment can be reduced if visitors dress conservatively and maintain a respectful demeanor and a low profile. Visitors should avoid confrontational situations, and move away from angry, threatening or aggressive persons, either on foot or in vehicles.

Incidents of vehicle pursuit, extremely aggressive and reckless driving, and vehicle gamesmanship, in which vehicles play a form of high-speed cat and mouse on the freeways, may force vehicles off the road or result in a collision with other vehicles. Speed is the most common cause of vehicle accidents in Kuwait. Apart from periodic storms, road conditions and weather are favorable in Kuwait. Drivers must remain defensive and alert to the hazards posed by others who neglect to yield in merges, cut across lanes to exit, drive aggressively and at excessive rates of speed, pass on shoulders and often operate without headlights at night.
Unexploded bombs, mines, and other ordnance from the 1991 Gulf War remain present in some desert areas in Kuwait. US Embassy Kuwait urges caution if traveling off paved surfaces outside of Kuwait City. A TCN worker was recently killed by unexploded ordinance located near a border checkpoint with Iraq. The unexploded ordinance exploded while the TCN was attempting to remove wiring from the device. Unexploded ordnance has also been discovered in piles of sand used at construction sites, including at Camp Arifjan, the largest US military base in the country.

During the cooler months in Kuwait (October-March) Kuwaitis often travel to the desert to camp. Many of these campgrounds are located very close to the major roadways, but some Kuwaitis travel long distances to camp in isolated areas. Camping in established camp areas decreases the potential for coming into contact with unexploded ordnance. Visitors should avoid camping away from population centers. The US Embassy and the GOK have received threat information indicating official and private Americans may be targeted for terrorist attacks. Soft targets such as western hotels and restaurants can be considered vulnerable to terrorist attack, although many are making improvements to their perimeter and internal security. American citizens are advised to avoid apartment complexes where Americans or other Westerners are generally known to congregate in large numbers. We recommend that Americans maintain a low profile and vary routes and times for required travel to avoid predictable schedules.

Political Violence

For several years after the September 2001 on the US, Kuwait City experienced no major demonstrations or other related violence. During this time, Kuwait has remained a strong ally of the United States, even after the US military invasion into Iraq and the subsequent onset of insurgent violence began to reverberate throughout the region. In early 2006, the controversy over Danish cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed provoked several demonstrations in the country, but these remained peaceful and uneventful. However, when Israel attacked Lebanon in the summer of 2006, several large protests occurred, including two at the US Embassy. Demonstrators expressed an unprecedented amount of anti-US hostility during these protests. While there were no injuries or damage during the protests, the police were not prepaired for how quickly the second demonstration materialized and grew in number. Demonstrators numbering in the hundreds burned American and Israeli flags, while waving the yellow flag of Hezbollah and chanting “Death to Israel and Death to America.” Since the end of the summer 2006 war, there have been no major demonstrations in Kuwait City. While these events were isolated, they clearly illustrate how quickly certain events can evoke an emotional response even in a country not known for political demonstrations or violence.

The primary terrorist threat to US personnel in Kuwait comes from individuals with links to al-Qaeda and regional jihadist networks. In January 2005, Kuwaiti police and Special Forces attempted to arrest members of an indigenous terrorist organization known as the Peninsula Lions. In July 2004, Kuwaiti security forces arrested up to 20 individuals who were engaged in recruitment, training and financing of local youth or terrorist operations in Iraq and Kuwait. These arrests demonstrate the development of extremist elements in Kuwait. In 2002 and 2003, individuals were able to conduct lethal attacks against US military and civilian contractors in Kuwait. While there have been no lethal attacks in the last 12 months, the presence in Kuwait of a growing number of US military and contractor personnel in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom continues to make Kuwait a potential target.

Post-specific Concerns

American citizens traveling to Kuwait should be aware that possession of drugs and alcohol is illegal. Additionally, pornographic materials, weapons, and pork products are confiscated if discovered during customs checks at the airport. Customs authorities will x-ray and search luggage upon entry into the country. While in Kuwait, both women and men should dress conservatively at all times. Shorts and sleeveless shirts are discouraged from being worn in public.

Throughout Kuwait the chances of being involved in a motor vehicle accident are far greater than being a victim of criminal or terrorist act. Driving in Kuwait is hazardous. Embassy employees are briefed upon their arrival in Kuwait that driving is very dangerous in Kuwait. Night driving is particularly dangerous because many drivers do not turn on their headlights. A good general rule to follow while driving in Kuwait is to avoid driving in the number one (far left) lane on Kuwaiti highways, as this lane normally has the drivers traveling at the highest rate of speed. Number one-lane drivers are extremely aggressive and will flash heir headlights rapidly in order to encourage slower-moving drivers to change lanes. Drivers should so be prepared to see camels or other livestock near the side of major highways.

Tips on How to Avoid Becoming a Victim

Americans should maintain a low profile, vary routes and times for all travel to the extent possible, and treat mail and packages from unfamiliar sources with suspicion. All Americans are urged to be suspicious of unexpected visitors and to pay particular attention to suspicious vehicles. Any suspicious activities or vehicles should be reported to the local police as soon as possible. The neighborhoods of Khaitan and Farwaniya, located on the outskirts of Kuwait City International Airport, are recognized and identified as high-crime areas due to criminal elements operating drug, prostitution, gambling, and black market enterprises. These areas are largely populated by TCNs who are poorly paid and may turn to crime for financial gain. Incidences of rape, theft and murder are usually not directed at Americans and Western personnel but largely involves TCNs. Americans are urged to avoid this area altogether, especially at night.

For further information
The main Embassy phone number is +965 259-1001. The Regional Security Officer can be reached by calling +965 259-1001 ext 1704. To contact Consular/American citizen services please call +965 259-1001 ext 1581. The Consular Section Chief can be reached by calling +965 259-1001 ext 1278. The Foreign Commercial Office can be reached by calling +965 259-1001 ext 1392.
The embassy’s working hours are Sunday – Thursday 8:00 am-4:30 pm. During this time, visa applications for travel to the Untied States are accepted. Personal interviews are required and appointment times are requested online. Interviews are conducted at the embassy Monday-Thursday from 8:00 am-12:00 pm. American Citizen Services operates Sunday-Thursday from 9:00 am-11:00 am and 1:00 pm-3:00 pm for routine services, and will generally see any American citizen for emergency services anytime during the workday. The section is closed Monday mornings.

April 7, 2008 Posted by | Community, Crime, Cross Cultural, ExPat Life, Kuwait, Living Conditions, Middle East, News, Travel | 12 Comments

Cloudy Kuwait Afternoon

7 April, and it is 81°F/ 27°C at 1445 on a cloudy afternoon, 21% humididy; feels like more. The best it has gotten all day is light grey.

Hubby had a few raindrops last night, on his car. Did anyone else?

April 7, 2008 Posted by | ExPat Life, Kuwait, Living Conditions, Weather | 9 Comments

Moses Learns to Delegate

When I was young, I never would have thought that I would join a bible study on the life of Moses that took a whole year. When I was young, I was a believer, but never dreamed I would really STUDY the word. One day a person invited me in, and I found myself learning things I never would have dreamed.

I remember learning this segment, from Exodus, which is part of the readings for day. Moses listened to his father-in-law, and he had to learn to delegate, so he wouldn’t be worn out:

Exodus 18:13-27

13 The next day Moses sat as judge for the people, while the people stood around him from morning until evening. 14When Moses’ father-in-law saw all that he was doing for the people, he said, ‘What is this that you are doing for the people? Why do you sit alone, while all the people stand around you from morning until evening?’ 15Moses said to his father-in-law, ‘Because the people come to me to inquire of God. 16When they have a dispute, they come to me and I decide between one person and another, and I make known to them the statutes and instructions of God.’ 17Moses” father-in-law said to him, ‘What you are doing is not good. 18You will surely wear yourself out, both you and these people with you. For the task is too heavy for you; you cannot do it alone. 19Now listen to me. I will give you counsel, and God be with you! You should represent the people before God, and you should bring their cases before God; 20teach them the statutes and instructions and make known to them the way they are to go and the things they are to do. 21You should also look for able men among all the people, men who fear God, are trustworthy, and hate dishonest gain; set such men over them as officers over thousands, hundreds, fifties and tens. 22Let them sit as judges for the people at all times; let them bring every important case to you, but decide every minor case themselves. So it will be easier for you, and they will bear the burden with you. 23If you do this, and God so commands you, then you will be able to endure, and all these people will go to their home in peace.’

24 So Moses listened to his father-in-law and did all that he had said. 25Moses chose able men from all Israel and appointed them as heads over the people, as officers over thousands, hundreds, fifties, and tens. 26And they judged the people at all times; hard cases they brought to Moses, but any minor case they decided themselves. 27Then Moses let his father-in-law depart, and he went off to his own country.

April 7, 2008 Posted by | Adventure, Biography, Books, Bureaucracy, Character, Community, Family Issues, Health Issues, Marriage, Social Issues, Spiritual | 2 Comments

Disability Awareness Day at Fenway

What a way to start your day. Watch what happens in Boston when the singer of the National Anthem gets the giggles:

April 7, 2008 Posted by | Adventure, Community, Events, Relationships | , | 3 Comments