Kuwait has a compulsory and free school for eight years for all children aged 6-14. There are a number of private schools. Foreign children must have lived in Kuwait for 10 years in order to attend public school. In the first four years of primary school, it is taught only in Arabic. In the middle stage, Arabic and English are emphasized equally. Kuwait has a teacher’s college, a technical college and one university with 18,000 students (1999). Many students from Kuwait study abroad. In 2001, over 17% of the adult population was considered illiterate.
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In March 1998, the emir formed a new government and replaced his finance minister.
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After several MPs had threatened to dismiss the Minister of Islamic Affairs for errors regarding printing a 120,000 edition of the Qur’an, the emir decided in May 1999 to dissolve parliament and print new elections in July – 1½ years earlier than planned. By then, Deputy Prime Minister Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmed al-Sabah had unsuccessfully urged members to renounce mistrust.
Despite the fact that Kuwaiti women have been leading businesses, newspapers, leading diplomatic missions for decades, taking an active part in the oil industry and generally accounting for 30% of the country’s labor force, it was not until 1999 that the emir allowed the government to pass a law that must give women the right to vote and vote. However, women first obtained this right in 2003 – ie. 2 electoral terms following the enactment of the law.
In April 2001, another government transformation was completed. A fire at an oil refinery in early 2002 led to criticism by the oil minister who was forced to resign. A series of debates in Parliament about the events led to accusations of corruption, incompetence and nepotism, which, for both parliamentarians and observers, emphasized the problems of the way the government works. The situation led to the proposed candidates for the post of Minister of Oil refusing to stand, and the decision-making process in the ministry therefore completely stalled. As a temporary solution, the Minister of Information, Sheikh Ahmad Fahd al-Sabah, was also instructed to be Minister of Oil until the 2003 elections.
Following the September 11, 2001 attack on the United States, the emir declared his support for the anti-terror coalition led by the United States. This led to backlash from Islamists who did not agree. This can increase social and political instability in the country.
The United States, Britain and a number of smaller countries invaded in March 2003. The Arab League unanimously condemned the invasion – with the exception of Kuwait.
Acc. the annual report by Amnesty International in 2003 sentenced Kuwait to four men on death row – including one convicted of the murder of a journalist in March 2001. The other 3 – 1 Kuwaiti and 2 Saudi – were convicted of rape and murder of a 6-year-old girl in May. The three stated at the start of the trial that they had confessed under torture, yet the court accepted the confessions. The dead were hanged in public, and the bodies were “showcased” for 10 minutes after the execution.
In the elections to the National Assembly in July 2003, the Islamic groups got 21 seats, the government parties 14, the independent 13 and the liberals 3.
In February 2004, two contingents of Japanese soldiers arrived in Kuwait to join the occupation of Iraq. These were the first Japanese soldiers sent into a conflict zone after the end of World War II.
In January 2004, the government presented more than 200 charges of war crimes against Saddam Hussein and his closest advisers, conducted during Iraq’s occupation of Kuwait in 1990-91. At the same time, the government declared it willing to drastically reduce Iraq’s debt to Kuwait.