Freedom of speech continues to be challenged in the Middle East, as two Kuwaiti males, Ayyad al-Harbi and Rashed al-Enezi, were recently arrested for insulting the Amir of the country, Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Sabah, on Twitter.
Harbi, who has created a name for himself in Kuwait, was given his sentence two months after he was arrested and released on bail, after warning the Amir that he was turning into another Middle Eastern dictator. Both men, however, were eventually sentenced to two years in prison after publicly slandering the ruler to over eighteen thousand followers combined. According to Mohammed al-Humaidi, Harbi’s lawyer and director of the non-governmental organization, Kuwait Society for Human Rights, the charges brought against the men were mostly fictitious, as they were based on incorrect interpretations of the tweets.
This is not the first time that one’s opinions have faced such repercussions in Kuwait. However, with ongoing protests, the government has been keeping a closer eye on social media activists, who have been utilizing different websites to show their discontent with the government and the royal family.
It seems as though the Arab Spring is slowly making its way to Kuwait with the help of social networking. It is a positive thing that the younger generation is politically mobilizing, even if political strife often leads to violence and imprisonment. Hopefully these consequences don’t leave silence as the only viable option for Kuwaitis.