Kuwaiti donors arm Syrian mujahideenJuly 12, 2013
Not to be outdone by their Saudi and Qatari neighbors, Kuwaitis are raising money to fund and arm the rebels in Syria. This is being done through private donations, and officials claim that safeguards are in place to ensure that aid goes to the “right” people. But this claim is unconvincing, especially given Kuwait’s record of allowing the Revival of Islamic Heritage Society to operate and fund terrorism abroad.
Insight: Kuwaitis campaign privately to arm Syrian rebels
By Sylvia Westall and Mahmoud Harby
KUWAIT | Thu Jun 27
(Reuters) – At a traditional evening meeting known as a “diwaniya”, Kuwaiti men drop banknotes into a box, opening a campaign to arm up to 12,000 anti-government fighters in Syria. A new Mercedes is parked outside to be auctioned off for cash.
They are Sunni Muslim and mainly Islamist like many Syrian rebels who have been trying for two years to overthrow President Bashar al-Assad, a member of the minority Alawite sect that is a branch of Shi’ite Islam.
Syria’s war has widened a faultline in the Middle East, with Shi’ite Iran and Lebanese militia Hezbollah backing Assad and Sunni-ruled Gulf Arab nations supporting his opponents.
“The world has abandoned the Syrian people and the Syrian revolution so it is normal that people start to give money to people who are fighting,” said Falah al-Sawagh, a former opposition member of Kuwait’s parliament, surrounded by friends drinking sweet tea and eating cakes.
In just four hours the campaign collected 80,000 dinars ($282,500). The box moves to a new house each day for a week. Sawagh estimates this type of campaign in Kuwait, one of the world’s richest countries per capita, raised several million dollars during the last Ramadan religious holiday.
Sunni-ruled Kuwait has denounced the Syrian army’s actions and sent $300 million in humanitarian aid to help the millions displaced by the conflict in which more than 90,000 have died.
Unlike Saudi Arabia and Qatar, Kuwaiti government policy is against arming the rebels. But the U.S. ally allows more public debate than other Gulf states and has tolerated campaigns in private houses or on social media that are difficult to control.
Kuwaiti authorities are nevertheless worried that the fundraising for Syria could stir sectarian tensions – Kuwait has its own Shi’ite minority. The West is concerned that support will bolster al Qaeda militants among the rebels.
Some opposition Islamist politicians and Sunni clerics have openly campaigned to arm rebel fighters, using social media and posters with telephone hotlines in public places. Former MP Waleed al-Tabtabie, a conservative Salafi Islamist, posted pictures of himself on Twitter clad in combat gear in Syria…