Here There and Everywhere

Expat wanderer

Corruption at the Morgue

Where is the Kuwaiti detective novel? I follow Guido Brunetti in Donna Leon’s series on Venice, Dave Robicheaux, the James Lee Burke detective in a small town just outside New Orleans, and now, Investigator Chen, who is a chief investigator in China, but where, oh where is the Kuwait detective / mystery? It is just waiting to be written.

In yesterday’s Kuwait Times is an article I would love to link you to, but it isn’t there, not even when I search “female coroner” from the headline on page 3. Did you know Kuwait had a female coroner, a la Kathy Reich’s Temperance Brennan and Patricia Cornwell’s Kay Scarpatta? As you read the article, it makes sense, as the bodies are kept semi-segregated in the morgue, and women work on women (some of the time) and men on men.

I’m impressed. Any time a woman takes on a traditionally men’s job, it takes a whole lot of courage. I imagine the requirements to be a coroner here are similar to other countries – you have to have a medical degree (be a doctor) and then have advanced training in forensics. So when Nawal Boshehri speaks out, I listen. She’s got my attention.

Nawal Boshehri says conditions in the morgue are awful. From a personal point of view, she has been sexually molested by her superior and frozen in her position over false accusations that she has not been going to work or signing in or out. She has asked the minister of interior to look into her complaints.

As an institution, she reports serious issues – labs that lack necessary equipment, to do tests, such as those that measure drugs and alcohol in the bloodstream, outdated machinery, rusty machinery, lack of ventilation (in a morgue! horrors!) and she states they are constantly in fear of getting infections.

She claims that reports have sometimes been manipulated and twisted to give prosecutors the wrong technical information that would sometimes end up setting a guilty person free, and that one time they certified a murder had been insane without him ever having been examined by any mental health professionals. She was once asked to provide a report that made one citizen swap places with the assaulted expatriate, so that the assaulted expatriate would appear to be the guilty party.

She adds that she fears for her life. She says “a senior coroner at the department falsified reports, namely those related to detainees, who underwent police brutality during interrogations. He usually did this as favors to his colleagues to help them get promoted instead of being punished for their brutality.” She added that because she has reported these things, she fears for her own life.

Every nation has corruption. Corruption is chaotic, and when you get serious about rule of law, you still have corruption, but you do your best to root it out. You report it when it happens. I think that Nawal Boshehri has enough confidence in Kuwait’s institutions to go public with her allegations. While it may appear dirty laundry, that she CAN go public is a very positive sign. I can imagine she fears for her life, and yet, she seems to be fighting to retain her job. That’s very brave.

That the Kuwait Times will publish the article on page three, in three columns, that is also very brave, and speaks well of the increasing confidence in a free press.

Wouldn’t this make a great detective novel?

March 11, 2008 Posted by | Biography, Bureaucracy, Character, Community, Crime, Customer Service, Kuwait, Living Conditions, News, Political Issues, Social Issues, Women's Issues | , , | 8 Comments