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Civil Society

 Diwaniya meeting
Diwaniya meeting

According to the Ministry of Social Affairs, about 300 NGOs are registered in Kuwait. They are active in such areas as health, human rights, environment, and welfare. Although they have a formal ‘non-government’ status, most of them rely heavily on the state for funds and patronage. NGOs critical of government policy are regularly denied registration. Probably more important in terms of civil dynamics is the traditional Kuwaiti institution of the diwaniya, a sort of social gathering. Diwaniya meetings take place in the privacy of one of the member’s homes, and one has to be personally invited to take part. This guarantees the institution relative independence from the state, whose officials regularly visit diwaniyas to keep in touch with public opinion. When security forces violently intruded into opposition diwaniyas in 1989-1990, dispersing their participants and arresting hosts, the image of the state as the protector of traditional ‘Kuwaiti’ values was severely damaged. Diwaniyas are traditionally all-male, but in recent years some all-female diwaniyas have been held.

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